back to article There's got to be Huawei we can defeat Chinese tech giant, thinks US attorney-general. Aha, let's buy stake in Ericsson and Nokia

US attorney-general William Barr has urged the United States to buy a controlling stake in Nokia and Ericsson to build a competitor to Huawei. In a speech made at the DoJ's China Initiative Conference in Washington, the nation's legal advisor in chief said America and its allies need to be "actively considering" proposals for …

  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    If only

    There was a US telco big enough to have the research budget to make 5g, of course it would have to be a monopoly with such close links to government that it was basically the state phone company.

    Call it "Trump Labs" and it will sail through congress

    1. Mephistro Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: If only

      I misread that as "Trumps Laws"!

      I propose A. Pai as CEO!

      8^)

  2. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    Why is the network slow?

    Because it's Nokia.

    Why is the network so expensive?

    Because it's Nokia.

    So why did we buy Nokia?

    Because it's Nokia ...

    Isn't there an alternative that's quicker, cheaper and more reliable, isn't likely to be owned by the US state with built in US backdoors?

    Well, I think there is Huawei ...

    Ok, we've been Trumped. Where do I sign?

  3. Mephistro Silver badge
    Angel

    Yeah...

    ..., other countries will be glad to purchase USA-backdoored equipment.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Yeah...

      Yes, at the moment, we shouldn't use Cisco, because it has dozens of backdoors and Huawei should also not be used for critical infrastructure.

      Why should the USA have to have a controlling interest in a non-USA based company. Talk about big headed!

  4. AIBailey Silver badge

    So is this an admission by the US government that they were expecting other countries to a) deny their markets to Huawei, and then b) turn to the US (primarily Cisco and Juniper) to supply their equipment.

    They've suddenly discovered that there are actually other network manufacturers that are neither Chinese or American, and have suddenly realised that they might not be raking in the millions after all. (Because let's not forget that the real reason for going after Huawei is to stifle the competition for US products)

    1. Milton Silver badge

      Ignorance-fuelled decisions

      So is this an admission by the US government that they were expecting other countries to a) deny their markets to Huawei, and then b) turn to the US (primarily Cisco and Juniper) to supply their equipment.

      They've suddenly discovered that there are actually other network manufacturers that are neither Chinese or American, and have suddenly realised that they might not be raking in the millions after all. (Because let's not forget that the real reason for going after Huawei is to stifle the competition for US products)

      I'm not sure that this is as clear as you suggest, but in truth I doubt that Trump sees anything but a bargaining chip in his trade dispute with China. Given his lickspittle attitude to Putin and carelessness with security generally—oh heck, Trump probably doesn't even know how to spell Huawei. He probably couldn't find distinguish Taiwan from Japan on a line map of the world. He actually manages to make our Prime Minister look knowledgeable about the world. Cretin.

      But IMHO he has done the right thing, albeit for the wrong reasons. I am an unapologetic China sceptic, and in any case, as I've said before: it's capabilities, not intentions that matter here.

      I have no idea who persuaded the idiot Johnson that there is some unbridgeable gulf between the "periphery" of a network and its "core", or who then went on to claim that UK security could magically protect against malicious actors routing traffic hither and yon—because that is what they're doing, after all. I wonder which part of the word "n∙e∙t∙w∙o∙r∙k" Boris failed to comprehend? But I do believe that allowing a Chinese-controlled company to place soft- and hardware inside our networks is absolutely insane. Some of the money wasted on the Brexit fiasco would have been great for building a home-grown, British system, come to that. The providers may be hyping 5G but there's no real urgency, when you come down to it. For most people it will make little difference to their lives, except higher phone bills.

      But there. I think we can already see a steady trend towards the new government producing reliably bad, dumb decisions and brain-dead policy. Huawei. HS2. Heathrow. Red lines. Counter-terrorism.

      It ain't gonna be pretty.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Ignorance-fuelled decisions

        > it's capabilities, not intentions that matter here.

        But if that's the case, then no nation should be using tech from any other nation -- because they all have the capability to do this sort of thing.

      2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: Ignorance-fuelled decisions

        Have a downvote for that bigoted rant and unapologetically sceptical view of China, Milton.

        And that's the proper way of doing things, El Regers, .... share your reasons for displeasure and/or opposition and contrarian view ....... whenever anywhere you downvote a shared personal opinion from something/someone in all likelihood completely unknown to you and virtually anonymised to protect one quite effectively from the sticky strokes of shame to fame, for that is only what they are ...... a passing thought on the views expressed by another imperfect stranger in a stream of billions of other such transactions, and vying to be made news that realises future changed conditions and novel situations.

        And it is a quicker way to get things properly done too ...... whenever you lay bare all of your disturbing concerns. One can easily find that they be falsely founded and basically not exactly true ie deliberately perverted and cynically corrupted for exclusive personal advantage and executive group profit.

      3. Cuddles Silver badge

        Re: Ignorance-fuelled decisions

        "I am an unapologetic China sceptic"

        I can confirm that China does indeed exist.

      4. EnviableOne Silver badge

        Re: Ignorance-fuelled decisions

        The Uk are at a serious advantage over The US and other nations with the HCSEC thats been running for 10 years.

        Our security wonks have unparrelled access to the source code and have on numerous occasions opined that their coding is so shoddy they couldnt put a back door in if they tried.

        However their kit works and works better than anything else, oh and its a lot cheaper.

        as Deutsche Telekom said Nokia kit is bad

        as per the O2 fiasco a in december 18 erricson arent much better

        the samsung kit is pretty good, but lacks the scale and proven track record

        the ZTE kit is not as good as Huawei's but benefits from its price competativeness, and suffers from the lack of transparency, along with samsungs problem of track record.

        No one else is even playing the carrier wireless access market so your choices are kinda limited, and based on Cost Benefit, the only option that works is Huawei.

      5. P. Lee

        Re: Ignorance-fuelled decisions

        We do actually need multiple vendors so that there is some competitive pressure.

        It would be interesting to see which parts of the network are transport-only. If your network equipment needs to see inside the packets, you've broken the network layering.

        I know that's all the rage with cloud and network vendors, but its dumb to tie your application to network hardware.

        For the billions it will cost in royalties, it would make sense to go with open-source basics and pay bounties for extra features. I never understand why governments are willing to pay billions for software rather than create and share something for less. Proprietary is not a magic wand ensuring goodness and it would knock the bottom out of Huawei's profitability, if Trump is inclined to do that.

    2. rcxb Bronze badge

      Cisco and Juniper do NOT make 5G equipment. There's no benefit to either of them. It's a very strange conspiracy theory people keep repeating.

      The fact that Barr is suggesting US investment in European companies who DO make 5G equipment is proof enough that there are no US competitors in the 5G space.

      1. Benson's Cycle

        It is proof that he wants to be able to extradite Nokia executives if they sell to anyone the US doesn't like. At this point you would have to be crazy to have any US investment in your company. Ask Dr. Lynch how actions that took place entirely in the UK and are the basis of a civil suit allows the US to extradite for criminal charges.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "At this point you would have to be crazy to have any US investment in your company."

          How do you deny anyone from buying company shares? Nokia is listed at NYSE.

          1. Lars
            Happy

            "Nokia is listed at NYSE."

            Yes indeed and so is Ericsson, a lot easier than buying Greenland.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "So is this an admission by the US government that they were expecting other countries to a) deny their markets to Huawei, and then b) turn to the US (primarily Cisco and Juniper) to supply their equipment."

      This is equating Cisco/Juniper routers/switches with a 5G network - it's never been comparable except in the minds of those who are unaware of the 3G/4G/5G marketplaces. While all solutions require multiple vendors (including Cisco and Juniper for managing parts of the IP portion of the networks), the number of actual vendors who can deliver 5G solutions is down to Huawei/Ericsson/Nokia-Siemens/ZTE with Samsung a distant fifth and everyone else making up the remaining >3% of the market and lagging by 3-5 years. And there are companies that used to have significant market share in that tiny segment.

      Historical US players have been consolidated into European firms before 4G was available - while there are still some US research facilities operating they pale in comparison to their European counterparts.

      There are rumours that Cisco may purchase Ericsson but thats largely wishful thinking on the part of M&A people and banks - both are lumbering giants that are struggling to deal with massive changes in their industries from China. Its more likely to lead to the market consolidating to Huawei/Nokia-Siemens/ZTE...

      1. NeilPost Bronze badge

        Yes.... whatever happened (in the mobile equipment market) to Nortel, Motorola, Lucent

        Crashed and burned and owned by Alcatel, Nokia-Siemen’s and Ericsson..

        So both already own much of the legacy NA Telecoms/Mobility market.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "Yes.... whatever happened (in the mobile equipment market) to Nortel, Motorola, Lucent"

          Looking at the larger businesses rather than just the mobile divisions - the move to mobile hurt there traditional markets (that were also under attack from IP telephony providers such as Cisco, Skype/Lync and the Chinese traditional PBC manufacturers) while they were unable to dominate the emerging mobile markets in the same way as they had done in traditional markets.

          The world changed and they didn't, or at least they didn't change fast enough - Nortel was liquidated and broken down largely ending up with Ericsson, Motorola's mobile division was sold to Nokia-Siemens and Lucent spun off Agere and Avaya but ultimately was still struggling and was acquired by Alcatel (who were later acquired by Nokia-Siemens). These stories are repeated through the history of large western telecoms manufacturers...

  5. alain williams Silver badge

    They will buy it ...

    then a year later decide that it was over valued and take the previous owner to court.

    1. MiguelC Silver badge

      Re: They will buy it ...

      Or just close it 3 years later

  6. LDS Silver badge

    What makes Barr think that EU will allow US to buy a controlling stake...

    ... in critical infrastructure companies?

    Try to do it in US.... and see what happens. And that's while the Trumpet is menacing tariffs if poor US companies are requested to pay taxes?

    With all those money to be made, why let them go to US?

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: What makes Barr think that EU will allow US to buy a controlling stake...

      Quite. And he thinks Open RAN is "just a pie in the sky"!

  7. iron Silver badge

    If he really does want Nokia and Ericsson to compete with Huawei then the last thing they need is to be bought by a government. Any government. But, especially one run by a populist buffoon with more wigs than brain cells.

    Plus if the USA buy a share in Nokia and Ericsson then I will be buying Huawei for all my future comms needs. I don't think I'm the only one either.

    1. DJO Silver badge

      Well if you're prepared to wait a few years, Cisco might have something and unlike Huawei who only might be compromised, with Cisco there's no doubt, they are 100% in the pocket of the US government and their back doors are the best back doors.

  8. TimMaher Bronze badge

    Nobody mentioned....

    Samsung.

    Apart from their manufacturing side, they also appear to be collaborating with HPE (Good luck with that) and OpenNet, on a higher tier offering.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Nobody mentioned....

      That's because after China, Russia et al. the Republicans are shit scared of a Europe independent of the US; probably one of the reasons why Trump wanted the UK out of the EU in a way most likely to cause offence and discord between European neighbours...

      They are probably okay about Samsung, as a result of a behind the scenes US-Samsung deal associated with the Australian-Samsung 5G deal...

      1. DougS Silver badge

        No

        Trump wanted the UK out of the EU because that's what Putin wanted.

        1. Benson's Cycle

          Re: No

          Putin wanted to peel the UK away from the US; failing that, to get the offshore US spying bases out of the EU.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can’t take any more!!!

    I’ve summarily blocked all stories from El Reg with this company’s name in the headline.

    1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: I can’t take any more!!!

      So you're saying you're trying get Huawei from their reporting?

      1. Yes Me Silver badge
        Stop

        Re: I can’t take any more!!!

        This joke has gone Huawei too far.

  10. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Hardly the US way, is it ? State subsidies and all that.

    I hope this gets shot down as the socialist - if not commie - nonsense it is.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Hardly the US way, is it ? State subsidies and all that.

      Oh, this is entirely the US way. As used in the US, "socialism" is largely meaningless -- it's just an an insult on par with "asshole". In practice, the US doesn't mind "socialist"-flavored policies as long as it benefits large corporations, particularly if it only benefits large corporations.

      1. Benson's Cycle

        Re: Hardly the US way, is it ? State subsidies and all that.

        It's the US way: socialism for losses, capitalism for profits.

        1. Fatman Silver badge
          WTF?

          Re: Hardly the US way, is it ? State subsidies and all that.

          Actually, the saying goes:

          You socialize the risks and privatize the profits.

          Case in point:

          Progress Energy (now a part of Duke Energy) bribing providing campaign contributions to lobbying Florida Legislators to allow billing customers in advance for a nuke plant, which was never built.

          Some background (if you are interested): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levy_County_Nuclear_Power_Plant

  11. JohnFen Silver badge

    It makes me smile

    It makes me smile to see the impotent rage that this issue has elicited from the Trump administration.

    1. Yes Me Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: It makes me smile

      It's so infuriating. You impose free market capitalism on the world and they turn out to produce better, cheaper products, and your own anti-trust laws make it hard to protect yourself. So you have to invent national security concerns. And then you have to send your dirty tricks people to other countries to make them kowtow. It's just awful. How can you be expected to make Amurrica great again in such conditions?

      I was glad to see the Guardian report that Trump was apoplectic about it, but unfortunately it was untrue: regrettably, he didn't have an apoplexy.

  12. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    All Hell Breaking Loose? Now it's only a Matter of a Short Space of Time for Novel Orders.

    amanfromMars [2002071544] ...... stating the obvious on https://www.zerohedge.com/geopolitical/trump-was-apoplectic-rage-during-call-boris-johnson-over-huawei-decision#comment_stream too

    Sensing this, AG William Barr went so far as to suggest that the US buy stakes in Ericsson and Nokia, the two Scandinavia telecoms components giants, to allow the US to have something to offer its allies instead of just asking them to go without Huawei's cutting-edge telecoms equipment for their 5G rollouts.

    How odd that AG William Barr would think that the UK had not already considered that option themselves some time ago, and decided it unworthy of further pursuit in an extremely time-sensitive field ?

    New owners of lagging behind systems still has lagging behind systems trumped by others proving Advanced Capabilities with Virtual Utilities which is surely what's on Offer from any Prime Premium Product Producer Supplying Creative Enterprises to Globalised Assets.

    Are you not awake to all of that yet? Have you not already been told?

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: All Hell Breaking Loose? Now it's only a Matter of a Short Space of Time for Novel Orders.

      >New owners of lagging behind systems still has lagging behind systems trumped...

      Remember the 5G network infrastructure is only part of the piece; the potentially larger market is the 5G enabled market, which I suspect the US wants a large slice of. By slowing the deployment of 5G infrastructure, buys US companies time to get in on this market, before non-US companies can get too far ahead and established...

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: All Hell Breaking Loose? Now it's only a Matter of a Short Space of Time for Novel Orders.

        Yeah, that's exactly what I said earlier, Roland6, albeit with a little more detail revealed.

    2. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge

      Re: All Hell Breaking Loose? Now it's only a Matter of a Short Space of Time for Novel Orders.

      Upvoted for two reasons:

      (1) I think I actually understood it.

      (2) Deciding that decades of under investment in US research can be over come by buying a couple of non US firms which are also lagging behind in research (just not as far) is not logical thinking. At this stage competitors should be looking at research into new fields such as 6/7 G (whatever that might be). Playing perpetual catch up won't win share of a saturated market.

  13. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    FAIL

    Arrogance

    That's what beggars belief. Can't do it ourselves, so we'll just buy someone who can - whether they want us to or not.

    1. EnviableOne Silver badge

      Re: Arrogance

      Nothing new here, this was the microsoft aquisition policy for years.

      By the no2 in the market and pump them full of cash

  14. martinusher Silver badge

    Huawei is just a symptom

    There's been a discussion about a chronic skills shortage in my part of the world for at least 15 years. In that time its gone from 'a nuisance' to 'crippling'. Like other potential disasters (climate change being one) the problem started off as a largely theoretical prediction, it recommended that we focus resources on education and training to ensure a supply for the future but the economic and managerial climate was 'it will be all right on the night', companies and government just kept kicking the can down the road. We are now in the future and theoretical shortage is now very real, dangerously so.

    Meanwhile on the other side of the Pacific China has been churning out engineers at a decent rate and instead of leaving them to flounder around has been putting them to work.The result is that while our industry has been declining they've been bolstering it. Eventually you hit one of those tipping points, Huawei being one of them. There's no way that the US can marshal the kind of resources to catch them in the short term and our national response has been downright embarrassing -- try to kill their market to take them down, then promise to flash some cash at the relatively anemic competition (cash we don't have, BTW -- we're just printing it). This isn't just Huawei -- look at Nord Stream 2, we can't compete so we try takedowns.

    The solutions are obvious to an engineer but obviously opaque to a politician because it requires a recognition of who we are, how we got here and that getting out of is going to take time and investment. Instead we find doubling down on a losing strategy -- the FBI's mission in life now seems to be to harass Chinese engineers and academics working in the US and CBP thinks its mission is to cancel visas for promising visas for students just because they're Iranians. We need these people but our xenophobia is further endangering us. Its a good thing I'm retired (or rather, I would be if we could hire a replacement.....).

    1. overunder Silver badge

      Re: Huawei is just a symptom

      Well put. I'll argue 2 things:

      1. Any given politician doesn't know the specifics of anything, at all. Thus observing the motives and behavior of a politician is kindred to a marionette, so couldn't it be that those behind the curtain aren't getting exactly what they want? If they are, you ponder the end game, but if they are not, how can you affect thier motives without the politician? You could try the politician, but... good luck with that. Ultimately politics are not the place to make the changes you describe.

      2. More visas won't help. In fact, we've had pretty good visa policies for a long period. In that same period we also have arrived here, so? Maybe it isn't that we need more open doors to our country, maybe it is that we need more open windows in it. It's damn near now that if you're not born with a silver spoon, you'll never be able to contribute, and nationality has nothing to do with that, but what does? Maybe it's that same marionette.

    2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Huawei is just a symptom

      Hi, martinusher,

      Is it true Leading IT Bods and/or Bots never retire? They can go on and on as if forever from strength to strength but in secret with the shade of shadows providing the space for working freely and not necessarily to order[s]?

      After all, without IT leading media one would be left with the old tales of early sticks and Sisyphusian stones and primitive battles amongst ignorant and misinformed natives to present on an infinite loop?

    3. Lars
      Happy

      Re: Huawei is just a symptom

      @martinusher

      You would agree with this rant from Dr. Michio Kaku too then, and I think there is something for the British too.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NK0Y9j_CGgM

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ORAN isn't American

    The article claims that ORAN is "developed in the US". It isn't. It's developed whereever ORAN's contributors are based.

  16. W. Anderson

    Elephant in the Room

    It is incredulous that US Attorney General Bill Barr would suggest that the USA can and should unilaterally decide to purchase - or just take over control of Finnish Nokia and Swedish Ericsson in order to provide 5G services in USA as alternative to Huawei.

    Even if those companies decided to sell themselves to a USA entity, it is entirely likely that the venture will go south just like Nokia's Mobile division sale to Microsoft. The bottom line will be monopoly of American nationwide 5G service with the absolute minimum financial expenditure possible - meaning very, very little or no Research and improvements to bring 5G service in line with reliability and performance to that of Huawei.

    How is that the "greatest nation in the world" (sic) cannot itself develop or produce competitive 5G service? Even Verizon mobile originally was licenses/purchased from UK Vodafone.

    Plus, no-one stops to question the US Trump administration in how they can thwart Huawei without one iota of proof of company spying or wrong doing, when the US Federal government National Security Agency (NSA) is "documented" via Edward Snowden revelations of official NSA documents that USA spied on their closest allies, even smartphones of heads of state in name of International tterrorism.

    Furthermore, NSA insidiously collected reams of confidential information from foreign companies that was forwarded to USA private corporations, that is clearly defined under International Law as illegal "Industrial Espionage".

    So much for USA bigoted and "holier-than-thou" dictatorial attitude exhibited against every other country and peoples on this earth.

    1. Sanguma Bronze badge

      Re: [Hephalump] in the Room

      "holier-than-thou" - my word for that is "sacrosanctimonious"..

    2. MacroRodent Silver badge

      Re: Elephant in the Room

      As noted by someone earlier, both are publicly traded companies, with "owners" all around the world. If Barr wants U.S to buy either of them, it is hard to stop it, if they have the wads of cash to do it.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Barr should be careful what he asks for

    A buddy of mine used to work for Nokia. Went to meetings in Finland. Said he hated going to meetings there with his boss. In the sauna.

    "I don't see why I have to get naked with my boss just to have a meeting."

    1. Benson's Cycle

      Re: Barr should be careful what he asks for

      No different from "I don't see why I have to wear a suit and tie to visit a customer site."

  18. HildyJ Silver badge
    Devil

    We've done it before

    About a decade ago the US bought a $51b stake in General Motors and look how well that worked out.

    Oh, wait a minute.

    1. druck Silver badge

      Re: We've done it before

      Not to forget what a roaring success it was when a US company last bough a bit of Nokia.

  19. PhilipN Silver badge

    Attorney General?

    WTF has it got to do with him?

  20. Kernel Silver badge

    What's really amusing about all this is that there is already a lot of cutting-edge research and development of communications infrastructure carried out in the US - by Nokia Bell Labs at their Menlow Park campus.

    1. Benson's Cycle

      For how much longer?

      If I were Nokia, I'd be repatriating it before the US government decides it comes under National Security and annexes it.

  21. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge
    Coat

    The Americans moved factories offshore -- "to cut cost", they say. Instead of seeing the prices of Chinese-made goods go down, it continuously increased.

    The Chinese then reverse-engineered the same goods and started selling them at a fraction of the American-branded ones -- and made money.

    I'm just saying ... IF the Chinese are able to manufacture something and make money then something is really, really wrong with the Yanks' "system".

  22. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge

    White House dismisses idea of US buying Nokia, Ericsson to challenge Huawei

    White House dismisses idea of US buying Nokia, Ericsson to challenge Huawei

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: White House dismisses idea of US buying Nokia, Ericsson to challenge Huawei

      MRDA ...... They would say that, wouldn't they.

  23. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Deutsche Telekom tells Nokia to shape up

    Deutsche Telekom tells Nokia to shape up

    the German group considered Nokia the worst performer among all suppliers in 5G tests and deployments

  24. Adrastus

    Boris's motive

    During our recent election Corbyn and co illustrated how backward the UK's internet infrastructure was vis-a-vis the OECD mean. We lag because Thatcher curtailed BT's bid to provide a fibre-optic connection to every dwelling in return for pay TV by landline. She had an aversion to state monopoly. Ofcom is composed of disfunctional wankers who think a multiplicity of rent seekers constitute adequate competition to deliver an optimum. Even among the ill-informed this ideological drivel should have been displaced by the recent revelations. I suppose Boris's advisors hope to compensate (in part at least) for our existing inadequate coms by utilizing Huawei technology to deliver 5g timeously.

  25. AndyD 8-)₹

    While panicking about which foreign 5G is best/ safest no-one is considering the possibility that 5G is NOT the way forward (there aren't enough rural lampposts for a start!).

  26. fredesmite Bronze badge
    WTF?

    300M people in Amurika

    And the US gvmt wants to invest in Sweden and Finland for 5G ?

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