WASHINGTON – The super-secret National Security Agency (NSA) intervened to block AT&T’s purchase of networking equipment from China’s Huawei Technologies, according to a report in Friday’s (Oct. 8) edition of the Washington Post.
AT&T, a major NSA contractor, was preparing to purchase networking equipment from Shenzhen-based Huawei for its next-generation 4G telecommunications network. The Post reported that NSA officials told AT&T that it should select another supplier if it wanted to keep its lucrative business with the U.S. government. The report was attributed to “several people with knowledge of the call” to a senior AT&T executive from NSA.
AT&T, which plans to launch its 4G network next year, announced in February that it would purchase the Long-Term Evolution equipment from Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent.
NSA’s primary security concern, according to the report, was that Chinese intelligence services could install trapdoors in Huawei’s equipment to monitor U.S. communications. Indian officials have raised similar concerns when telecommunications companies there proposed buying Huawei equipment.
Those concerns may be easing, however. Huawei recently signed a telecom deal with India’s Tata Teleservices while another Chinese supplier, ZTE, has reported a 50 percent increase in Indian sales.
The Post report also said U.S. lawmakers are seeking to block a potential equipment deal between Huawei and Sprint Nextel for the U.S. carrier’s 4G mobile and wireless network. A Republican senator has charged that the deal would “possibly undermine U.S. national security.”