That ban generally prohibited U.S. companies from exporting technology to Huawei. But the reprieve, known as a temporary general license, allowed U.S. software providers to continue sending updates and patches to Huawei so the Chinese company could disseminate them to customers using Huawei cellphones or Huawei wireless network equipment.
The Commerce Department has said the reprieve was largely meant to help rural telecommunications companies in the U.S., some of which use Huawei equipment in their mobile networks. Larger U.S. telecom companies have avoided using Huawei equipment, but rural providers adopted it because it was relatively inexpensive.
In an emailed statement, the Commerce Department confirmed that the license has expired. It said the license had provided “an opportunity for users of Huawei devices and telecommunications providers to continue to temporarily operate such devices and existing networks while hastening the transition to alternative suppliers.”
A Huawei spokesman said the company is “monitoring the situation and assessing the potential impact.”
Jerry Whisenhunt, general manager of Pine Telephone Company, a network in rural Oklahoma that uses Huawei equipment, said he was less concerned about the reprieve ending than he was about a bigger problem — a law enacted this year requiring U.S. telecoms to replace network equipment that poses “national security risks.” The Federal Communications Commission this year designated Huawei and fellow Chinese equipment producer ZTE as posing such a threat.
The new law says telecom companies won’t have to replace the equipment until the federal government gives them money to do so. Congress hasn’t yet allocated money for the replacement effort, and Whisenhunt sees no sign of it doing so soon. In the meantime, he doesn’t want to spend money on the network equipment changes he knows he needs to make.
“The longer they wait the more likely it is that we’re going to have problems” with the functioning of the network, he said.
The expiration of the license also means that Google won’t be able to send software updates to Huawei cell phones, which run on Google’s Android operating system.
Earlier this year, Google said the U.S. trade ban meant it was prohibited from providing its technology or apps to new Huawei phones, but that it was still able to update Huawei phones that had been on the market before the trade ban was announced in May 2019.
“We have continued to work with Huawei, in compliance with government regulations, to provide security updates and updates to Google’s apps and services on existing devices, and we will continue to do so as long as it is permitted,” Google said in that February statement.
On Friday, Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said it was the temporary general license that had allowed the company to send those updates. He declined to comment further.