Things have changed dramatically for ZTE in the last few weeks. It went from one of the world's largest smartphone makers to effectively shutting down in the wake of US Department of Commerce action that blocked it from buying technology from American firms. Now, Reuters reports that ZTE has signed a preliminary agreement with the US agency to lift the ban.
While the agreement has not been finalized, ZTE has apparently agreed to pay another hefty fine to revive its business. Under the preliminary terms, ZTE will pay $1 billion in fines and place $400 million in escrow to guard against future violations. This is similar to a rumored deal reported several weeks ago.
The Commerce Department plans to amend the agreement to count part of ZTE's previous fine from last year ($360 million) as part of the total penalties. That means the agency gets to tout a $1.7 billion penalty. ZTE has reportedly not yet signed the amended deal, but that seems like it's only a matter of time.
The deal also comes with requirements for ZTE's business operations. The company must allow full access to its facilities so investigators can verify US components are being used as claimed. It also has to replace its board of directors and top-level executives within 30 days of signing the agreement. If this pans out, ZTE could be operating again in a matter of weeks.