US Commerce Department reverses course on Huawei ban in Microsoft’s favor

Kareem Anderson

Huawei has been a security and arguably a political target of the United States as of recent with the Commerce Department putting the China-based technology company on a trading blacklist.

As a long-time manufacturing partner, the Huawei sanction had left Microsoft in a murky situation regarding its ability to license, trade and purchase technology from the company.

However, due to either some successful lobbying or threats, the Commerce Department has selectively reversed course on its previous ban of Huawei and is granting licenses to Microsoft and other firms for “limited and specific activities” between them and the China-based technology company.

Presumably, since President Trump and his administration put Huawei on the trading blacklist back in May, firms who do business with Huawei have been in the ear of government officials to have the ban altered or reversed, earlier this week Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross admitted as much.

We’ve had 290-something requests for specific licenses. We’ve now been starting to send out the 20-day intent-to-deny letters and some approvals.

While it may seem that things can get back to normal for Micorosft and other Huawei partners, the new licenses come with some strings attached and may still hamper the companies ability to fully develop future technologies together.

Microsoft, specifically, may be exempt from some of the new rules, but according to Commerce officials, the license grants come as a 90-day extension from the in-place national ban and only for older wireless systems and not for 5G networks.

For Microsoft, the new grants seem to allow the company to continue to sell Windows 10 licenses to Huawei and co-develop technologies regarding the companies Azure cloud services but it should call into question which devices the license exemptions will be applied to concerning 5G modems and components.

As before, Microsoft has been relatively mum and selective in its responses to or about the Huawei ban, only recently offering a “we appreciate the department’s action in response to our request,” as a comment.