Japanese mobile carriers postpone sales of new Huawei smartphones

Kyodo News

Posted at May 23 2019 01:47 AM

Major Japanese mobile phone service operators said Wednesday they will postpone sales of new smartphone handsets produced by Huawei Technologies Co. after Washington effectively banned US firms from supplying components to the Chinese tech giant.

KDDI Corp. and SoftBank Corp. have both said they will put off planned sales of Huawei's new smartphone models for their wireless services, initially scheduled to begin later this month. E-commerce giant Rakuten Inc.'s mobile unit said it will also take a similar step.

Another major mobile carrier, NTT Docomo Inc., said the same day it will stop taking orders for new Huawei handsets, although the company said last Thursday it will launch a new high-end Huawei model in the summer. Asked about the current status, an NTT Docomo spokeswoman said it has yet to be decided whether to delay sales of the affected handsets.

KDDI and SoftBank said they made the decision as it remains unclear whether US technology giant Google LLC will continue providing services, including its Android operating system, to the Chinese smartphone maker following a national emergency over technology threats declared by U.S. President Donald Trump last week.

Trump said the government was banning American companies from using telecom technology and services provided by entities deemed a national security threat, a move apparently targeting Huawei.

"We need to check whether our customers will be able to safely use Huawei smartphones amid concerns over Google's (future) move," said a SoftBank spokesman.

Google said Tuesday in a statement it will be able to provide software updates and security patches to existing Huawei smartphones as the US Commerce Department eased restrictions to let American firms offer maintenance work for the Chinese mobile phone maker for 90 days.

Still, concerns remain over services for Huawei's new smartphones as it is uncertain whether popular applications such as Gmail and YouTube offered by Google can be used on the handsets in the future.

The developments come despite Huawei's efforts to ensure it will continue offering services without disruption.

"There will be no impact on our existing products and services," Wu Bo, Huawei Device Co.'s regional president covering Japan and South Korea, told reporters on Tuesday in Tokyo.

The Japanese unit of Huawei said it will launch its latest models through other sale channels such as home appliance stores from Friday as scheduled.

A Huawei senior official said the company is planning to introduce its own operating system for its smartphones possibly this fall as a countermeasure to the U.S. restrictions, according to the Chinese media.

"We can make semiconductor chips similar to those of the United States," Huawei Founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei told Chinese media on Tuesday.

The Chinese mobile phone manufacturer had the fifth-largest smartphone shipment volume in Japan accounting for 6.2 percent of the total in the year ended in March after Apple Inc., Sharp Corp., Sony Mobile Communications Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co.

The U.S. technology ban is having spill-over effects in other industries, including components suppliers, which might face the threat of a drop in orders.

Electronic component makers Murata Manufacturing Co. and Kyocera Corp. said they are keeping close tabs on the situation.

Japan decided last December to effectively exclude Huawei and another Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE Corp. from public procurement from April, reflecting U.S. concerns over the companies' perceived close ties with the Chinese government.

The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been improving ties with the Chinese government, while maintaining close ties with the United States.

A senior official said the government will allow private companies to maintain discretion on how to react to the latest U.S. action against China.