Huh? Is VOA saying the U.S. has dropped the Huawei ball?

That was my first take on the new VOA Chinese-language report titled “U.S. Sanctions on Huawei Achieve Initial Results, But Outlook Still Not Optimistic (美国制裁华为初见成效,但前景仍不容乐观),” dated May 11, 2022.

The opening paragraphs do explain the rather startling title, and the body of the report is far less provocative, focusing first on the recent news about Cellcom dropping O-RAN and its wider implications, followed by a more general assessment of U.S. success to date regarding Huawei sanctions. Pretty good read once you catch your breath.

Admittedly, the VOA report is a bit off topic for this space, but in another sense not. Note the Liaowang quote on the splash page of this blog which lays out the competitive thrust of Digital China: “Whoever can better understand and grasp the general trend of digitalization, and better adapt to and lead the developmental direction of new forces of production, will be able to win the new omnidirectional competition for comprehensive national power.”

5G is one of the early technical markers for Beijing regarding the “general trend of digitalization.” And where and how this resolves itself is still playing out – as the VOA title reminds us.

A lightly-edited DeepL machine translation of the first few paragraphs of the VOA report follows:

WASHINGTON – The recent announcement by a local U.S. wireless network operator to abandon the open 5G network technology initiated by the U.S. government in recent years in favor of redeploying legacy 5G equipment is a potentially worrisome sign for the U.S. push for an “Open Radio Access Network” (O-RAN) architecture to replace Huawei equipment.

华盛顿 — 最近美国一家地方无线网络运营商宣布放弃美国政府近年来发起的开放式5G网络技术,转而重新部署传统的5G设备,这对美国大力推动“开放式无线电接入网”(Open Radio Access Network,O-RAN)构架来替代华为设备的努力来说无疑不失为一个潜在的令人担忧的迹象。

From former President Trump to the current Biden administration, the U.S. has launched several rounds of sanctions against Huawei since 2019 and has warned other countries not to use Huawei-related products. In the great power game competition between the U.S. and China, the Huawei dispute is not only about who will dominate the next generation of mobile communications technology, but also a concentrated reflection of the battle for technological and even geopolitical influence between the two countries. After several years of unremitting efforts by the two governments, analysts say that, in general, the United States cutting off the Huawei chip supply and other measures have been quite successful, but also still faces many serious challenges. In addition, the United States to replace Huawei equipment and strongly advocate the open O-RAN architecture also needs to be further tested in the market.


High hopes for O-RAN


Cellcom, a provider of network services in Wisconsin and Michigan, began deploying O-RAN network equipment in 2018 and was one of the first companies in the U.S. to begin practicing the emerging concept. But the company recently said it decided to abandon its efforts in this open source and open concept-based network technology solution after several years of effort due to issues such as cost and equipment availability.