Google says it will stop offering Android updates for phones made by the Chinese telecom company Huawei. The move follows a U.S. executive order that American companies stop doing business with any foreign company that harms national security interests.
Google, owned by Alphabet, “has suspended business with Huawei that requires the transfer of hardware, software and technical services except those publicly available via open source licensing,” Reuters first reported. In a statement, Google confirmed the news: “We are complying with the order and reviewing the implications,” a spokesperson said, according to CNBC.
In practice, this means Huawei won’t be able to license Google’s Android operating system, so Huawei phone users will lose access to updates. Future versions of Huawei smartphones running Android won’t be able to access popular Google apps including Gmail, YouTube, and the Google Play store – which lets users easily download third-party apps.
Huawei is one of the world’s largest smartphone suppliers, second only to Samsung. In losing access to the latest Google software, Huawei may find it difficult to compete in the global smartphone market, CNN reports.
Google isn’t the only company cutting ties with Huawei. American chipmakers such as Intel, Qualcomm and Broadcom have told their employees that they will stop supplying Huawei, Bloomberg reported. And the Nikkei Asian Review reported that the German chipmaker Infineon has also stopped shipments to Huawei.
The Trump administration last week restricted the sale of U.S. technology, which seemed aimed at Huawei. An executive order signed by the president declared a “national emergency” and blocked U.S. companies from doing business with foreign tech companies that pose “an unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States.” The Commerce Department said it would add Huawei and its subsidiaries to a list of companies generally prohibited from buying U.S. technology.
Huawei, which has denied allegations that it spies on its users, says it has been preparing for the possibility that it might lose access to American companies. In March, Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei’s consumer products division, told a German newspaper that Huawei had prepared its own operating system in case it lost access to Android. “That’s our plan B,” Yu said. “But of course we prefer to work with the ecosystems of Google and Microsoft.” The company has stockpiled enough chips to keep its phone business running for months, Bloomberg reports.
According to Ryan Koontz, an analyst with Rosenblatt Securities Inc., the U.S. ban could have a major impact on China’s ability to build 5G networks, as Huawei is dependent on U.S. components like semiconductors.
“The extreme scenario of Huawei’s telecom network unit failing would set China back many years and might even be viewed as an act of war by China,” Koontz told Bloomberg. “Such a failure would have massive global telecom market implications.”