US Senator Wants to Know How Huawei Still Has Hard Drives

A senior U.S. senator on Tuesday filed a formal enquiry with three makers of hard drives — Seagate, Toshiba, and Western Digital — asking whether they complied with a regulation that requires them to obtain a license to sell HDDs to Huawei.

Republican senator Roger Wicker this week decided to find out whether Seagate, Toshiba, and Western Digital believed that the new rule “prohibits shipment of hard disk drives to Huawei or any affiliate without a license” and the status of all license applications to ship their products to Huawei. The senator told Reuters that he was “in a fact-finding process … about whether leading global suppliers of hard disk drives are complying.”

Last August the U.S. Department of Commerce imposed new rules that required any company that sells hardware, software, equipment, or any other asset designed and/or built using American IP to Huawei to obtain a special export license from the U.S. government. Such licenses are usually reviewed with a presumption of denial policy, so they tend to be especially hard to get.

Last September two U.S.-based makers of hard drives had different views on the new rules. Western Digital said that it ceased to supply HDDs and SSDs to Huawei and applied for a license, whereas Seagate initiated an investigation to find out whether it actually needed a license.

Toshiba is a Japan-based company, so it might be a little easier for the company to work with Huawei. Still, since Toshiba uses loads of technologies developed in the U.S. (e.g., it has IP related to 3.5-inch HDDs that it obtained from Western Digital), it has to get a license from the U.S. DoC anyway.

Huawei sells thousands of different products, many of which need an HDD or an SSD to function. While there are solid-state drives that use solely Chinese technologies, HDDs are made by three companies in the world using machinery and IP designed in the USA. While Huawei said it had stockpiled enough components to keep its businesses running for a while, in eight months almost any stock should have been depleted. Therefore, the senator wants to find out whether Huawei procures HDDs on open market, or continues to be supplied by manufacturers themselves.

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