Just weeks after announcing a deal to install a Wi-Fi network from China’s Huawei Technologies at their 85,000-seat stadium, the Washington Redskins are moving in a different direction.
The NFL team told Inside the Ring on Wednesday they have decided to go with two American companies for installing a Wi-Fi network for fans and VIP guests at FedEx Field next season.
“We are in the process of deploying a stadium-wide Wi-Fi network working with Verizon and Cisco,” Redskins Senior Vice President Tony Wyllie emailed the Ring.
The team declined to elaborate on why they made the switch or what will happen to the partnership with Huawei, a company linked by the U.S. government to the Chinese military and that has been flagged by Congress as a possible security threat.
Huawei announced Oct. 24 that the company had concluded its first major U.S. sports sponsorship and technology partnership with the Redskins, which included setting up a Wi-Fi network at the suite level — used by NFL owners and their high-profile guests.
Huawei said in a statement that the Redskins deal was the first for the company in the United States. Huawei currently has network and telecommunications gear installed at soccer stadiums in Germany and the Netherlands.
“It is an honor to work with the Washington Redskins, one of the most storied franchises in American sports,” said Jun Xu, vice president of technical solutions and marketing for Huawei Enterprise USA. “We look forward to working with the Redskins organization and leveraging our extensive experience with major stadiums around the world to create and provide the best game day experience to its technology-savvy fan base.”
Huawei has been blocked from entering the U.S. telecommunications market several times by the federal government over concerns the company is linked to Chinese government spying.
A report produced in 2012 by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence warned American companies not to use Huawei equipment over concerns the company is linked to the Chinese military and has conducted cyber espionage.
“We have to be certain that Chinese telecommunication companies working in the United States can be trusted with access to our critical infrastructure,” said Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in releasing the report.
“Any bug, beacon, or backdoor put into our critical systems could allow for a catastrophic and devastating domino effect of failures throughout our networks.”
Mr. Rogers said his committee has “serious concerns about Huawei and a second Chinese firm, ZTE, because of its government links.
“China is known to be the major perpetrator of cyber espionage, and Huawei and ZTE failed to alleviate serious concerns throughout this important investigation,” Mr. Rogers said. “American businesses should use other vendors.”
Huawei spokesman William Plummer dismissed allegations the Huawei equipment will pose security concerns.
“Anyone who knows anything about communications technology knows that WiFi gear is built to globally-common standards by companies that rely on globally-common supply chains, and, as such, to the extent that such gear might be compromised, such vulnerability would be universal, regardless of the geography of a manufacturer’s headquarters,” Mr. Plummer said. “Suggestions otherwise are nonsense.”
⦁ Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter at @BillGertz.