Days after adding Huawei to a list that banned US companies from selling goods or services to the Chinese telco giant, the Commerce Department has eased some of the restrictions.

The department granted a 90-day temporary license for Huawei to acquire US equipment for the support of existing products.

Sell it while you can

Huawei logo
– Sebastian Moss/DCD

The temporary reprieve order, which covers Huawei and 68 of its non-US affiliates, is effective until August 19, 2019.

It allows for the sale of equipment and services across the following four areas:

  1. Continued Operation of Existing Networks and Equipment - this allows for the sale of support products when there is a legally binding contract and agreements between Huawei and third parties signed on or before May 16, 2019.
  2. Support to Existing Handsets - this covers service and support, including software updates or patches, to existing Huawei smartphones that were available to the public on or before May 16, 2019.
  3. Cybersecurity Research and Vulnerability Disclosure - This allows for the disclosure to Huawei of information regarding security vulnerabilities in items owned, possessed, or controlled by Huawei.
  4. Engagement as Necessary for Development of 5G Standards by a Duly Recognized Standards Body - Huawei is allowed to engage with the development of 5G standards as part of a duly recognized international standards body (e.g., IEEE, IETF, ISO, ITU, ETSI, 3GPP, and GSMA).

“In short, this license will allow operations to continue for existing Huawei mobile phone users and rural broadband networks,” US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said.

Washington lawyer Kevin Wolf, a former Commerce Department official, told Reuters: “The goal seems to be to prevent Internet, computer and cell phone systems from crashing. This is not a capitulation. This is housekeeping.”

The license does not cover any new Huawei products - just support for existing ones.

Speaking to Chinese media, company founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei downplayed the significance of the reprieve, referencing the company's efforts to stockpile equipment: “The US 90-day temporary licence does not have much impact on us. We are ready.”

He added: “The current practice of US politicians underestimates our strength. Huawei’s 5G will absolutely not be affected. In terms of 5G technologies, others won’t be able to catch up with Huawei in two or three years. We have sacrificed ourselves and our families for our ideal, to stand on top of the world.

"To reach this ideal, sooner or later there will be conflict with the US.”

For a comprehensive look at the story behind the ban, and the history of US-led accusations against Huawei, be sure to read our in-depth feature on the subject