media logos

US government probing handset makers ZTE, Huawei

The names ZTE and Huawei were essentially unknown a few years ago, but since about 2008 they’ve steadily grown their brands in the US. Prepaid Reviews readers in particular have become familiar with the brands, as they have provided handsets for carriers such as MetroPCS and Cricket. But because they’re both China-based companies, their rapid growth has raised eyebrows within the US government. Reps. Mike Rogers (R., Mich.) and C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D., Md.) have headed an effort. Yesterday they sent requests to the companies that outline their concerns. The main issue: espionage.

Because Chinese companies are heavily regulated, the necessarily have ties to the government. The Chinese government can exploit these ties via a low that them to “task Chinese companies with providing information or acting on behalf of the government.” US lawmakers fear that this could include levels of espionage. Since both ZTE and Huawei are telecommunications companies, the concern centers on their ability to access critical infrastructure.

Both ZTE and Huawei have said that they intend to comply with requests and answer inquiries from the government. But this appears to be just the beginning of a complicated affair. Rep. Rupperberger pretty clearly lays out the issue in a single sentence:

“We’re very concerned about the Chinese government hacking our national networks.”

Legitimate concern or not, we can expect the government to pursue this veraciously. It is, to put it lightly, no small matter.