Huawei’s US distribution plans are thwarted again as AT&T reportedly backs out of a deal

Huawei’s CES press conference isn’t until later today, but the company’s already having a rough time of it. According to reports from The Wall Street Journal, AT&T has backed out of a deal with the Chinese smartphone maker — the latest in a series of setbacks as the company attempts to gain a foothold in the U.S.

The U.S. has been something of a white whale for the handset maker, which currently ranks as the world’s No. 3 brand behind the more familiar Apple and Samsung. While the market has shifted somewhat in recent years, carrier deals still comprise the vast majority of smartphone purchases here in the States. Those deals, however, have remained elusive for the company.

But Huawei believed this would be the year it would turn all that around — and CES would be the show. The company reportedly expected it would be unveiling an AT&T partnership at the show today — something it anticipated would be a tentpole announcement.

“We will sell our flagship phone, our product, in the U.S. market through carriers next year,” CEO Richard Yu told the Associated Press back in December. “I think that we can bring value to the carriers and to consumers. Better product, better innovation, better user experience.”

But that dream has, at least temporarily, been dashed, forcing Huawei to soldier on in the States without a carrier. The company is likely to spend time focusing on its Mate 10 flagship at the show today, but how it plans to actually penetrate the market in any meaningful way is much more murky now.

As for what actually spurred Huawei to pull out of the deal isn’t clear, but a 2012 House Intelligence Committee report does go a ways toward explaining the company’s struggles here. Huawei was specifically called out over security concerns, along with fellow Chinese smartphone maker, ZTE.

“Private-sector entities in the United States are strongly encouraged to consider the long-term security risks associated with doing business with either ZTE or Huawei for equipment or services,” according to the report.

Whatever the case, it will make for a fascinating show when the company takes the stage later today.