Being unable to purchase components from American suppliers might not be the most severe punishment ZTE will face.
Following a ruling by the U.S. Department of Commerce, ZTE could find its use of Android impacted. Google and the Chinese company are reportedly discussing whether or not its Android license is in jeopardy, according to Reuters. Although there hasn’t been a confirmation going either way, it’s a sign the Chinese company’s facing an uphill battle.
The easiest solution would be to utilize Android’s source code. It’s available to the public, and other companies like Amazon have used to it to assemble their own platforms.
While the company would still have a complete user interface with its own tweaks, ZTE would be unable to use Google Mobile Services. It’s the collection of apps and APIs that unlock full functionality on an Android device. ZTE would be left struggling to provide an alternative to the Play Store outside of China, where the digital store is unavailable.
Another major area of concern involves Qualcomm and its processors. Because the supplier is based in the U.S., the ban from the government seemingly applies to prevent ZTE from purchasing processors for its phones and tablets.
ZTE would need to switch over to a supplier like MediaTek for this component.
If you’re just hearing about the situation, ZTE was caught violating the terms of sanctions issued in 2017. The Chinese company pled guilty to illegally shipping products to Iran. In addition to a near-$1 billion fine, ZTE was forced to fire a handful of executives and discipline many other employees.
The ban on purchasing components from American suppliers runs for seven years, but that’s not nearly short enough for ZTE to maintain its current operations. Its business will certainly take a hit, affecting both mobile device sales and networking equipment development. There’s no easy way to replace Android and Google’s apps while also switching to entirely different processors.