Chinese telecom-gear maker Huawei Technologies Co. is a finalist for a contract to build out the fourth-generation (4G) wireless network for U.S. Cellular Corp., the country's sixth largest wireless carrier, the Wall Street Journal reported  yesterday, citing "people familiar with the matter." Other finalists are L.M. Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent SA.
In addition, reports the Times, Huawei says it is in talks with federal, state and local government agencies to provide wireless technology to build the U.S.'s first nation-wide public-safety network.
Huawei has been the subject of controversy in its attempts to expand into U.S. markets. A letter from U.S. lawmakers Monday asked President Barack Obama and the U.S. government to legislatively ban Huawai from selling network equipment in the U.S. and from receiving government subsidies.
Founded by a People's Liberation Army soldier, Huawei has also received criticism from opponents who say it retains links with China's security services. Reuters reports that Huawei has denied the links, but the suspicions have torpedoed other U.S. deals in the past. Last summer, an interagency group known as the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) prevented Huawei from selling vast quantities of equipment to Sprint Nextel, as reported by Frank Gaffney in his blog post, "Huawe? No Way... " (where he highlights much of the remaining controversy and suspicion surrounding the company).
Referring to the legislators' letter, the Times reports, Bill Plummer, vice president for government affairs for Huawei USA, said that the company has been "cooperating fully with the government on the issue of bidding on public-safety- network business."
U.S. Cellular has more than six million customers in 26 states. The Chicago-based firm, a subsidiary of Telephone & Data Systems Inc., plans to roll out a 4G network based on a technology known as Long Term Evolution later this year.
U.S. Cellular was not immediately available for comment, but according to the Times, a spokesperson said the company is still evaluating the results of its LTE trial and has not yet selected a vendor. A decision is expected in the next few weeks.