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Huawei is in early talks with US companies to license the 5G platform

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Chinese telecom equipment giant Huawei is in early-stage talks with some US telecom companies about licensing its 5G network technology, a Huawei executive told Reuters on Friday.

Vincent Pang, senior vice president and director of the board at the company, said that some companies have expressed interest in a long-term deal or a one-time conversion, and he declined to name or quantify the companies.

“There are some companies talking to us, but it’s going to take a long journey to really finish everything,” Pang explained on a visit to Washington this week. “They have shown interest,” he added, saying the talks are only two weeks old and not yet at a detailed level.

The US government, concerned that Huawei equipment could be used to spy on customers, has led a campaign to persuade allies to block it from using their 5G networks. Huawei has repeatedly denied this claim.

There are currently no 5G providers in the US, and European competitors Ericsson and Nokia are generally more expensive.

In May, Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment provider, was placed on a US blacklist over national security concerns, barring it from buying US-made parts without a special license.

Washington has also filed criminal charges against the company, alleging bank fraud, violating US sanctions against Iran, and stealing trade secrets, which Huawei denies.

The rules that were due from the Commerce Department earlier this month are expected to effectively ban the company from the US telecom supply chain.

The idea of ​​a one-time fee in exchange for access to Huawei’s patents, licenses, code and Huawei 5G know-how was first floated by CEO and founder Ren Zhengfei in interviews with The New York Times and The Economist last month. But it was not previously clear if there was any interest from US companies.

In an interview with Reuters last month, a State Department official expressed skepticism about Ren’s offer.

“It’s not realistic for carriers to take this equipment and then manage all the software and hardware themselves,” said this person. “If there are software bugs embedded in the initial software, there is no way to tell that they necessarily exist and they can be activated at any time, even if the software code is handed over to mobile operators,” the official added.

For his part, Bang refused to speculate on the possibility of any deal being signed. However, he warned that the R&D investment required through continuous platform improvement after a single Huawei move would be too costly for companies.

Huawei has spent billions developing 5G technology since 2009.

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