February 21, 2019

Huawei fights spying controversy with renewed commitment to UK 5G

By Priya Kantaria

“I believe this misunderstanding will continue for some time,” Huawei executive director Ryan Ding said at a pre-Mobile World Congress session at the London Savoy.

The Huawei controversy is rebounding across the world, with the US encouraging countries to follow suit and consider a ban on Huawei equipment, following accusations that its hardware contains spying capabilities.

But while there is ongoing discussion around the topic, it seems like the UK and Germany will not be doing so.

Huawei points to support in the telecom industry, with Ding saying, “Our customers would say Huawei is way ahead of our competition.”

And speaking to the BBC, Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei said: “We will continue to invest in the UK. We still trust in the UK. If the US doesn’t trust us, then we will shift our investment from the US to the UK on an even bigger scale.”

Huawei in the UK

Zhengfei’s promise will be fulfilled by Huawei’s increased investment in research and development, with Ding saying the investment will continue to rise.

Peng Song, president of Huawei North Africa claims its investment in R&D is more than all the other telecom firms put together.

The Chinese telecoms and smartphone manufacturer also cites investment in the UK in employment figures.

The company has 1,500 employees in the UK, 1,000 of which are locally recruited, and an additional 7,500 jobs supported through its supply chains.

Huawei says it plans to spend £3bn with British suppliers in the next five years and invested and procured £2bn in the UK up to the end of 2017.

It also points to a centre overseen by the UK Government’s intelligence and security organisation GCHQ, which it says has complete access to Huawei technology.

“No other technology supplier in the UK is open to this degree of independent scrutiny,” said Huawei in a statement.

Huawei claims to be the Porsche of 5G

Compensating for the current uncertainty around its products, Huawei is focused on the biggest prize of all: 5G.

Ding claimed: “In 5G, we are not only the first to invest, but we also have the biggest investment, and that’s why we’ll continue leadership.”

“All our competitors have useable 5G base stations, however, there’s a difference between useable and good,” he said, adding an analogy that compared US car brand Ford to sportscar Porsche, headquartered in Germany.

And according to Huawei, UK operators are poised for a large-scale rollout of 5G, and the 5G networks are available for commercial use.

An executive told the BBC that a UK rollout of 5G without Huawei would be “like the Premier League without Manchester United”.

5G firsts and Huawei

5G is happening all over the world, from Shanghai train station, which Huawei can take credit for, to Manchester airport, and there are simultaneous claims to the world’s first 5G phone call from operators and telecom manufacturers.

Huawei and three major UK operators made a video call across several operators’ 5G networks a few weeks ago.

The firm also unveiled its new radio units at the pre-MWC event.

The Mobile World Congress claims the title of world’s biggest industry event and is being held in Barcelona from 25 to 28 February.

Huawei’s new radio units are 50% smaller and 23% lighter than previous models, and aim to speed up and make the set up of 5G infrastructure easier for operators.