Lawmakers in the U.S. have been urging AT&T, the second largest U.S. wireless carrier, to cut its commercial ties with Huawei Technologies the phone maker based in China and are opposed to the plans by China Mobile, a telecom operator to enter the market in the U.S. due to concerns over national security, said a pair of congressional aides.
This warning comes following a harder line taken by the White House administration on policies initiated by former U.S. President Barack Obama related to issues ranging from the role of Beijing in controlling North Korea to the efforts in China to acquire strategic industries in the U.S.
Earlier in January, AT&T had to end its plan of offering its customers handsets made by Huawei after some Congress members lobbied against that idea with regulators, said sources.
The federal government also blocked a series of acquisitions by Chinese companies over concerns of national security including the proposed purchases by Ant Financial of U.S. based money transfer business MoneyGram International.
U.S. lawmakers are advising companies from the U.S. that if they have any ties with China Mobile or Huawei, it could hurt their chances of doing business with the government.
One of the ties that members of the House and Senate want to be cut by AT&T is a collaboration the carrier has with Huawei related to the standards for the next generation high-speed 5G network, said the sources.
Another is using handsets made by Huawei by Cricket, the discount subsidiary of AT&T.
China Mobile, the largest mobile phone operator in the world, did not answer requests to make a comment.
AT&T declined comment, but did say it had made no final decision on its suppliers for 5G. Lawmakers in the U.S, who in the past have expressed concerns over the prospect of the deal between Huawei and AT&T, either would not comment or were not available.
On Monday, Huawei did say that it sells its equipment via over 45 of the top 50 worldwide carriers, and puts the security and privacy of its clients at the top of the list of its priorities.
Experts in national security fear any data from a device made by Huawei, for example related to the location of the user, would be made available to the intelligence service in the Chinese government.
During 2012, both ZTE Corp and Huawei were investigated by the U.S. about whether equipment from the two provided any opportunity for threatening critical infrastructure in the U.S., which Huawei has always denied.