International

US-Based Huawei Unit Seeks Stand-Alone Operations

The U.S.-based research arm of China’s Huawei Technologies is working to separate its operations from its corporate parent because of the government blacklist.

As a result of the Trump administration’s ban on the the Chinese telecom company, a source told Reuters that Futurewei Technologies has banned Huawei employees from its offices, moved its own employees to a new IT system and forbidden them from using the Huawei name or logo in communications. Huawei, however, will continue to own Futurewei.

As Huawei’s U.S.-based research and development arm, Futurewei employs hundreds of people at offices in Silicon Valley and the greater Seattle, Chicago and Dallas areas. It has filed more than 2,100 patents in areas including telecommunications, 5G cellular networks, and video and camera technologies, and has had numerous research partnerships and grant programs with U.S. universities.

The relationship with U.S. universities has caused concern for lawmakers. Last year, 26 members of Congress sent a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, warning that the partnerships could be used to help Huawei collect research in artificial intelligence, telecommunications and robotics that could then be used in hacking or spying operations, as well as give Chinese companies an advantage over American rivals.

While Futurewei is not on the government’s blacklist, some universities are still concerned about continuing the relationship. The University of California-Berkeley, for example, has suspended funding from Futurewei but continues to allow the company’s employees to participate in research reviews under certain restrictions.

Other universities that have partnered with Huawei or Futurewei include Stanford, Princeton and Columbia universities, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Michigan and the University of Texas at Austin.

And despite Futurewei’s move to separate itself from its parent company, Congressman Jim Banks, an Indiana Republican who signed the letter, isn’t convinced it will resolve those concerns.

“Futurewei is Huawei,” said Banks, who introduced a bill earlier this year that would allow government agencies to restrict or cancel federal funding for any sensitive research project carried out with companies that pose a national security threat.

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