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Huawei boss is willing to license 5G tech to ease spying fears

The company claims it’s willing to sell its 5G patents and technical blueprints to another business.
Igor Bonifacic, @igorbonifacic
September 12, 2019
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Huawei's CEO Ren Zhengfei said the company is willing to help boost a western rival in the global 5G race as a way to ease tensions with the West. In a recent interview, Ren told The Economist Huawei would give another company "perpetual access" to its existing 5G patents, code and technical blueprints in return for a one-time fee.

Ren went on to claim the license would give the buyer the freedom to modify Huawei's source code, so as to address any possible spying concerns. The potential cybersecurity threat Huawei presents to western nations has been a contentious issue among the Five Eyes, an intelligence-sharing alliance that is made up of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and US. While Australia, New Zealand and the US have banned their respective national carriers from buying 5G equipment from Huawei, Canada and UK have yet to do the same. As part of this hypothetical deal, Huawei would keep all of its existing carrier contracts and continue to develop new 5G tech, as well as work to secure new sales contracts. Essentially, the company wants to reset the playing field and go from there.

However, as The Economist notes, it's hard to say whether the plan is likely to work. First, it's unclear if the Chinese government would agree to Huawei essentially selling off a portion of its most valuable assets to a foreign company. Similarly, it's uncertain if there's a company out there that is actually interested in buying Huawei's 5G patents.

Most of all, even if Huawei were to prop up a western rival, it's unlikely that would put the company in the US government's good books. As things currently stand, there are few things Democrats and Republicans agree on, but both mistrust Huawei. In July, a bipartisan group of House representatives and senators moved to block the Trump Administration from removing Huawei from the Commerce Department Entity List.

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