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Prakash Sangam: China’s Huawei Clones Are Greater Threat to National Security than Huawei



Photo of Prakash Sangam, the author of this Expert Opinion piece

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote on Friday to virtually block Huawei’s access to the U.S. market, but this rare bipartisan action only protects one element of America’s digital infrastructure.  In reality, the likeliest and most susceptible security vulnerabilities aren’t well understood by policymakers, and we’re at the beginning of a very long fight.

In the $2.4 trillion telecom sector, the dawn of 5G is more than a buzzword.  It’s truly a new era full of great promise, as well as great danger.  But our policymakers’ focus has only been on the big companies with name recognition, without attention paid to the less prominent ones that might pose much larger security risks.

Huawei and ZTE (another major Chinese manufacturer up for the FCC’s vote, but which doesn’t get the same publicity) are easy targets for the uninformed masses who fear all things China.  Meanwhile, the national security threat from other Chinese-subsidized and foreign-controlled telecom companies is potentially more vast and insidious than our leaders in Washington, DC understand and acknowledge.

There’s been no mention by politicians, in news media or on social media about the security risks posed by devices or cellular modules – the mini-computers that make up the brains of the Internet of Things (IoT).  There will be 43 billion in the world by 2023, and consequently they’re the favored target for hackers.  Unlike phones or chipsets, these modules are untraceable once embedded in devices.  These elements are so critical in connected infrastructure that If a hostile state or player gains control with intent to attack the U.S., it’s far more horrific to imagine the scale of destruction than with a compromised smartphone or social media account.

Unauthorized access to your iPhone or Facebook enables spying.  But access to an IoT device enables direct action in the real world.  Shutting off power to Washington, DC.  Turning off traffic lights in Manhattan.  Pumping the breaks on autonomous cars in San Francisco.  Stopping heat in winter to homes in Minnesota.  Interfering with medical devices in Florida.

Forget the compromised security of smartphones.  A compromised module – one of dozens that’ll be in every American home within the next few years – could mean literal life or death.

Five of the top ten IoT module manufacturers are Chinese, and they rake in 71 percent of the industry’s revenue using the same government backing and Huawei playbook to stifle competition in the U.S. and Europe.  China’s heavy investment in IoT in the country – coupled with considerable government subsidies – allow Sunsea, Fibocom and Quectel to be extremely price-competitive in global markets.

Industry insiders have been vocal in sharing stories of these companies slashing module prices below reasonable production costs.  Driving out competition with a questionable pricing structure – and the consequent potential for future manipulation of affordability and availability – adds another layer to the concerns regarding 5G security.

It’s arguable that Chinese vendors Sunsea, Fibocom and Quectel are clones of Huawei, especially since they’ve effectively cornered the global market for the most critical components in the IoT.  That’s why it’s important for politicians and security experts to glance up from their research on Huawei to better understand the implications of U.S. reliance on Chinese IoT manufacturers.

The U.S. government shouldn’t ban a company just for being China-based, nor target one just for being in the business of telecommunications or technology.  Not every tech company in China is a stooge for the government with unreserved, evil intent.  In fact, companies like Quectel and Fibocom thrive in good part due to legitimate innovation, amazing engineers and good quality.

Nonetheless, the FCC will vote on Friday on Huawei and ZTE.  We must hope that this is just a first salvo in making 5G and the Internet of Things secure, with more investigation and possible action to come.  If the Trump Administration truly wants to protect the American people from foreign interference via smart devices, the FCC and Congress need to be more strategic in looking at potential threats beyond the flashiest names.

About the author:

Prakash Sangam is the founder and the principal at Tantra Analyst LLC.  He has more than 20 years of experience in engineering and marketing wireless technologies for companies like AT&T, Ericsson and Qualcomm.  Twitter @MyTechMusings. accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of and Breakfast Media LLC.

Broadband Breakfast is a decade-old news organization based in Washington that is building a community of interest around broadband policy and internet technology, with a particular focus on better broadband infrastructure, the politics of privacy and the regulation of social media. Learn more about Broadband Breakfast.


China Not Retaliating on U.S. Export Policy Out of Fear of Further Restrictions: Experts

China recognizes that it cannot produce all tech on its own, one expert said.




Screenshot of Craig Allen, president of the US-China Business Council

WASHINGTON, February 27, 2023 – China has no reason to retaliate against U.S. export controls because it might lead to more restrictions on products which would not be in the Chinese Communist Party’s interests, said the president of US-China Business Council at a web conference on Wednesday.

In October, the Commerce Department prohibited the exportation to China of certain high-functioning chips necessary for supercomputers and moved to prevent other countries from providing China with certain semiconductors made with American technology.

The Commerce Department also limited American citizens’ ability to work with Chinese chip facilities. The restrictions were billed as a national security imperative and designed to limit the development of next-generation, chip-dependent Chinese military technology.

At the same time, the U.S. raised concerns that China would retaliate.

“China has a good number of tools or legal tools, which they could retaliate, but that’s hard,” said Craig Allen, president of US-China Business Council, a non-profit that promotes trade between the two countries. “If they do retaliate, for example, against a chip company or manufacturing equipment company, a tool company, or another type of company, then that will lead to further restrictions on the inflow of technology and a product into China. And so, they have not found a way to retaliate, that suits their interest and I hope it stays that way.”

However, China also has remarkable speed and scale, Allen said. He considers China’s manufacturing speed and scale of accessing the market as “quite formidable.”

“Their dominance in the processing of rare earths, for example, is something that we should be concerned about,” according to Allen.

Other experts on the panel had similar opinions as well.

The most advanced artificial intelligence chips go into supercomputing and equipment for the production of semiconductors, according to Jimmy Goodrich, vice president of global policy at the Semiconductor Industry Association. The export control policy is limited to the “most cutting edge technology,” Goodrich said.

“The vast majority of chips don’t depend on and applications don’t depend on those advanced technologies,” said Goodrich. “Many of those are still unrestricted, because they’re ubiquitous, China has a lot more stronger domestic capability to produce them.”

But China may already be cognizant that development of chips is a globally integrated endeavor.

“It’s too complex, too global, too interdependent for one country to be able to produce all these technologies on their own,” Goodrich said, emphasizing the importance of multilateral approach. And that could be why, Goodrich added, China is hesitant to retaliate.

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Commerce Official Calls for Partnerships with Global Allies in Tech Race with China

Improving competitiveness with China is becoming the top priority for Washington.




Photo of Deputy Commerce Secretary Don Graves, by Tim Su

WASHINGTON, February 6, 2023 – Deputy Commerce Secretary Don Graves said an event late last month that the U.S. needs to build partnerships with other countries to tilt the balance in its favor against the technological influence of China.

“This is how we’re going to build U.S tech leadership, not with silver bullets, but step-by-step with government, business, educational institutions and communities all working together to create the conditions that will drive innovation, attract investment and grow quality middle class jobs,” said Graves at the Information Technology Industry Council’s tech and policy summit on January 31.

Graves addressed a concern that China has moved aggressively to establish a technological powerhouse “through massive government support for their own domestic industries, strategic use of capital to gain access to early stage, commercial tech” and allegedly through technology theft.

Graves said the Joe Biden administration understands the need for a different approach, a modern strategy that will focus on technology that provide innovation and job opportunities. He referred to a focus on computing-related technologies comprising chips, quantum and artificial intelligence and clean energy tech, that will reduce dependence on fossil fuels and protect against the costs of climate change.

The comments come after the House voted to establish a new committee to study the competitive landscape between China and the U.S. The Federal Communication Commission has already designated major Chinese companies such as Huawei and ZTE national security threats. In order to increase independence, President Biden has signed the Chips and Science Act into law in August last year that incentivizes the domestic manufacturing of key technologies, including semiconductors.

Sen. Todd Young, R-IN, one of the speakers at the event, called on Congress to be more united when it comes to the issues with China.

“We need to become more economically resilient,” Young said. “That means hardening our supply chains,” which he said can be done using the success of the Chips and Science Act.

“The administration’s theme that domestic policy is foreign policy is a good way to think about many things.”

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New Leadership and Priorities for Republican-Led Energy and Commerce Committee

The new chair renamed three subcommittees, hinting at the GOP’s goals for the coming term.



Photo of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers in 2018 by Gage Skidmore, used with permission

WASHINGTON, January 27, 2023 — Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., recently named chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, announced on Wednesday the new Republican leadership and membership of each subcommittee, giving insight into which members of Congress will be at the forefront of key technology decisions over the coming term.

McMorris Rodgers also announced changes to the committee’s structure, renaming three subcommittees and shifting some of their responsibilities. The changes aim to “ensure our work tackles the greatest challenges and most important priorities of the day, including lowering energy costs, beating China and building a more secure future,” McMorris Rodgers told Fox News.

Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., D-N.J. — now the committee’s ranking member after serving as chair for the past four years — announced on Friday each subcommittee’s Democratic membership and leadership, and named Rep. Kim Schrier, D-Wash., as the vice ranking member for the full committee.

Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., who will serve as the committee’s vice chair, is a vocal critic of Big Tech. In 2021, he was one of several Republicans who championed major reforms to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

The committee’s new names hint at some of the ways that the committee’s priorities may shift as Republicans take control. The former Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee is now titled the Innovation, Data and Commerce Subcommittee and will be chaired by Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., alongside Ranking Member Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.

Bilirakis and McMorris Rodgers have already announced the subcommittee’s first hearing, which will focus on U.S. global technology leadership and competition with China.

The Communications and Technology Subcommittee, now led by Chair Bob Latta, R-Ohio, and Ranking Member Doris Matsui, D-Calif., also emphasized competition with China in the announcement of a hearing on the global satellite industry.

Latta has previously spoken out against the total repeal of Section 230, but he has also expressed concerns about the extent to which it protects tech companies. In an April 2021 op-ed written jointly with Bilirakis, Latta accused social media platforms of engaging in “poisonous practices… that drive depression, isolation and suicide.”

The Environment, Manufacturing and Critical Minerals Subcommittee, formerly known as the Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee, will be led by Chair Bill Johnson, R-Ohio and Ranking Member Paul Tonko, D-N.Y.

The Energy Climate, and Grid Security Subcommittee, formerly known as the Energy Subcommittee, will be led by Chair Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., and Ranking Member Diana DeGette, D-Colo.

The Health Subcommittee will be led by Chair Brett Guthrie, R-Ky., and Ranking Member Anna Eshoo, D-Calif. The Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee will be led by Chair Morgan Griffith, R-Va., and Ranking Member Kathy Castor, D-Fla.

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