The US government sanctions on ZTE are having some unforeseen consequences. It turns out that the Chinese smartphone maker may be in danger of losing its license to use the Android OS; seeing that US based companies are now banned from doing business with it.
Use of the Android OS is still in a legal grey area at the moment. For the most part, the sanctions deal with hardware. Preventing companies like Qualcomm from supplying ZTE with the electronics that it needs to continue manufacturing phones. What it doesn’t talk about is the use of an open source operating system that also happens to make heavy use of Google services.
Neither ZTE nor Google has managed to come to a conclusion yet either, with both companies having already met to discuss the matter. A likely outcome could be that ZTE loses access to the Google suite of apps, but still being able to use the rest of the operating system. Similar to what it – and Xiaomi – offers in China.
That said, regulators may frown upon this sidestepping of the rule and take action against Google. Which is something that Mountain View is likely trying to avoid. In such a case, ZTE could simply be forced to build its own operating system.
ZTE is currently being sanctioned for selling phones with US made components in Iran. It is also said to have lied to investigators who were looking into the matter.
The final say over whether ZTE is still able to use Android will likely rely on US regulators. However, things don’t look good for the Chinese company in the current protectionist political climate.