Two Japanese carriers postpone release of Huawei phones

KDDI and SoftBank Corp, Japan's number two and number three carriers respectively, are delaying the release of new Huawei handsets. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TOKYO (AFP) - Two of Japan's top mobile phone carriers said Wednesday (May 22) they will delay releasing new handsets made by Huawei after a US ban on American companies selling technology to the Chinese tech giant.

KDDI and SoftBank Corp, the country's number two and number three carriers respectively, said the decision was taken to give them time to assess the impact of the US ban.

The country's biggest carrier, NTT Docomo, said it was also considering similar action.

SoftBank had been due to release a Huawei-made smartphone on Friday, but halted the release "because we are currently trying to confirm if our customers will be able to use the equipment with a sense of safety", company spokesman Hiroyuki Mizukami told AFP.

"We still don't know when we will be able to start selling," he said, adding the Japanese carrier is concerned about "everything" linked to the US ban.

Separately, Britain's biggest mobile operator EE said on Wednesday it would not offer Huawei handsets as part of its 5G services launch, pausing the use of devices from the Chinese company until its future becomes more clear.

Citing national security, US President Donald Trump has effectively banned US companies from supplying Huawei and affiliates with the critical components that have helped it grow into the world's largest supplier of telecom networking equipment and second-biggest smartphone maker.

US officials this week, however, issued a 90-day reprieve on the ban on dealing with Huawei, saying breathing space is needed to avoid huge disruption.

Japanese carrier KDDI said its release of the Huawei P30 LitePremium planned in May will also be postponed, with spokeswoman Reiko Nakamura saying: "We're checking the facts on how (the US decision) was made and its impact."

NTT Docomo spokesman Takahiro Suzuki told AFP that the firm is "studying possibility of stopping the receiving of sales orders of Huawei P30 Pro that we are planning to release this summer".

Last week Trump declared a "national emergency" empowering him to blacklist companies seen as "an unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States" - a move analysts said was clearly aimed at Huawei.

The US Commerce Department also announced an effective ban on US companies selling or transferring US technology to Huawei.

Washington has long suspected deep links between Huawei and the Chinese military, and its moves against the company come amid the churning trade dispute between the world's top two economies.

The risks for Huawei came into focus this week when Google, whose Android operating system powers most of the world's smartphones, said it would cut ties with Huawei as a result of the ban.

That poses a dire threat to Huawei as loss of full access to Google's services could make its phones a hard sell to consumers.

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