Huawei Mate 10 Pro Smartphone
Chinese smartphone maker Huawei
had been looking for a way to crack into the U.S. market, and it
thought it had finally found a partner in Dallas-based carrier AT&T.
But plans of a business deal evaporated this week after concerns
about security and ties to the Chinese government, according to
reports by The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. According
to the reports, AT&T has decided not to carry Huawei’s smartphones.
Both reports cited unnamed sources.
AT&T spokesman Fletcher Cook declined to comment.
The development is a blow for Huawei, which has its U.S.
headquarters in Plano. It is the third largest smartphone brand in
the world behind Samsung and Apple, but it remains virtually unknown
in the U.S. Its smartphones can be purchased online, but they’re not
on store shelves of any U.S. carriers. Even the company acknowledges
its relative obscurity with the U.S. marketing tagline: “The best
phone you’ve never heard of.“
AT&T walked away from the deal just a day before an anticipated
announcement on Tuesday by Huawei at a Las Vegas technology trade
show, according to the Wall Street Journal. Richard Yu, the CEO of
Huawei Consumer Business Group, delivered a keynote Tuesday
afternoon and unveiled its new smartphone, the Mate 10, and a luxury
smartphone made in collaboration with Porsche Design. He emphasized
its features, including its faster speeds, longer battery life,
rapid charging capability and a camera that recognizes objects and
adjusts using artificial intelligence.
Yu said security and privacy are top priorities for the company. He
pointed to the 153 million smartphones Huawei shipped in 2017,
saying the company has already earned consumers’ trust around the
Last spring, Huawei appeared to be making progress toward a deal
with AT&T. The Dallas-based telecom company reviewed a mobile phone
chip set made by the manufacturer. It was an early step in a process
that devices go through before they debut in stores.
Huawei’s plans for growth in the U.S. led to heightened scrutiny by
Congress. According to The New York Times, a group of lawmakers
wrote a letter to the Federal Communications Commission in December,
saying they was concerned about a possible deal between Huawei and
an an unnamed telecommunications company.
The letter said Congress has “long been concerned about Chinese
espionage in general, and Huawei’s role in that espionage in
particular,“ according to the Times’ report. It said the business
deal could make the company’s smartphones more common in the U.S.
and put the country at risk if government officials start to use
Huawei has been flagged by lawmakers before. In 2012, a House
Intelligence Committee issued a bipartisan report, saying that
Huawei and ZTE - two Chinese companies subsidized by the government
- had stolen intellectual property and could use their equipment to
spy on Americans.
U.S. officials are also investigating whether the company violated
American trade sanctions in countries including Iran and Syria.
Huawei said it complies with the law.
In a statement Tuesday, Huawei said it has proven itself by
“delivering premium devices with integrity globally and in the U.S.
market“ for five years and looks forward to introducing new products
to the U.S. market.