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Huawei can keep sending software updates to phones for three months, US says

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Commerce Department provided a temporary license

Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

Huawei will be able to keep sending software updates to its phones for the next three months despite an effective sales ban in the United States, after receiving a temporary license from the United States Commerce Department.

Reuters first reported on the license, which is set to expire on August 19th.

The license, effective today, allows Huawei to take action “necessary to provide service and support, including software updates or patches, to existing Huawei handsets that were available to the public on or before May 16, 2019.” The license will also allow Huawei to maintain its existing network equipment, and to receive security vulnerability disclosures.

Last week, the Trump administration declared a national emergency that allowed the Secretary of Commerce to block technology transactions deemed national security risks. Soon after, the administration effectively blacklisted Huawei, banning any US companies from doing business with the Chinese telecom giant without permission from the American government.

Google soon announced that it would no longer provide Android services for Huawei devices, although it said the company could continue using an open-source version. Google added that the services would also be maintained on existing Huawei devices.

“The Temporary General License grants operators time to make other arrangements and the Department space to determine the appropriate long term measures for Americans and foreign telecommunications providers that currently rely on Huawei equipment for critical services,” Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in a statement. “In short, this license will allow operations to continue for existing Huawei mobile phone users and rural broadband networks.”

The Trump administration’s crackdown, which has been expected for about a year, has upended Huawei’s global prospects. But after the Android ban, the company said in an announcement that it would continue to provide updates for devices already in customers’ hands. “We will continue to build a safe and sustainable software ecosystem, in order to provide the best experience for all users globally,” the company said.

Update May 20th, 6:53PM ET: Added statement from Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.