Huawei exec discusses U.S. governmental relations, 5G future
Q: Please tell me about your current role and what you enjoy most about your current job.
A: I have worked at Huawei for 25 years now, and am a shareholding employee. I have been elected as the director of the board, responsible for all public communications of the company, including communications with governments, the media, and customers.
As employees of a tech company, what makes us feel proud most at Huawei is seeing our advanced technologies and products being used by others. This is truly amazing. What I enjoy most is that Huawei is always willing to do things that many Western companies may not want to. For example, Huawei is willing to deliver network access to remote areas, from deserts and islands to deep oceans and enormous mountains, and bring communications network services to people in any extreme conditions or even during natural disasters. This fills me with the greatest pride.
Q: You recently wrote a letter to the US media. What did specifically hope to gain by having the US media coming to China?
A: You must have heard many allegations some officials in the U.S. government have made about Huawei. We believe these allegations are unsubstantiated. That’s why we wanted to invite the U.S. media to come and visit Huawei, to help the general public understand who we really are and learn about our technologies, our products, and the fact that Huawei is a private company wholly owned by its employees.
Q: What specific perception about Huawei do you hope to change?
A: We want to let the American people see who we really are. On the internet and various media platforms, almost every day, I see the criticisms of us from some U.S. politicians, especially those from U.S. congressmen. These criticisms are obviously not based on facts. Huawei is simply a business, and we don’t have the capacity or resources to face-off against the U.S. government. I believe U.S. media outlets are objective and advocate professional journalism, so we want an opportunity to show who we really are with the help of the U.S. media.
Q: What impact do you think your current U.S. media campaign will have on U.S. allies?
A: When we look at Western countries outside the U.S., we need to look at different groups like governments, consumers, and customers.
Our customers, mainly carriers, have been working with Huawei for 20 or even 30 years. They have made their choices professionally, based on their experience using our products. They already know that our products are advanced and secure. I think the media campaigns led by the U.S. government will have little impact on our customers.
Over the past several years, our smartphone business has also been growing very rapidly. Our smartphones are liked by many European consumers. By using our products and technologies, consumers have placed their trust in Huawei.
Finally, I think all of our efforts will have little impact on the governments of Western countries. When they make their decisions, they take into account many factors beyond our control. I believe they will make decisions that are in the best interests of their countries.
Q: What do you think will happen if the West and China are unable to come to an agreement on 5G security standards?
A: I don’t think that will happen. As mobile communications networks have evolved from 2G to 3G onto 4G and now 5G, security standards are becoming more unified and consistent globally. The likelihood that this trend is going reverse just for 5G is very low. If it did, it would just mean consumers would have to pay more for advanced network services.
Q: How will 5G be a platform for technology innovation?
A: Compared with previous generations of mobile technology, 5G has brought three major technological breakthroughs: faster speeds, lower latency, and more connections.
In addition to communications services and network connections for individuals, 5G can also support machine-to-machine connections. This presents huge opportunities for commercial applications of 5G.
I’m not saying that only 5G can support high-bandwidth connections, because optical fiber can do that too. But connecting to 5G networks will give us an alternative to fiber. With these technologies, we can bring to life things only previously seen in Hollywood movies, like autonomous driving.
Q: China is a leader in smart city innovation with over 600 smart city projects underway today. How is Huawei’s technology being utilized in smart city deployments?
A: Many countries, including China and Singapore, are talking about smart cities. I think the most fundamental requirement of a smart city is to offer convenience to citizens. For example, when citizens want to process a certificate of identity, they shouldn’t need to go to some remote office. They should be able to process the request online. Smart cities can also help protect the environment, for example, by using sensors to detect real-time changes in soil and water.
There is a fascinating application currently supported by Huawei in Germany, which we call smart parking. With this, you don’t need to drive around to find a parking space. Sensors can tell you where vacant parking spaces are. And another application is the smart trashcan. Normally, trash is collected once a week, but sometimes trashcans are still half-empty on collection day. Now we can use sensors to tell trash collection trucks which trashcan is full and where to collect. This can help save much cost.
In Australia, water companies have come up with yet another application. We know that one-third of their costs were previously sunk into leaks in their pipes and wasted water. With the use of sensors, these companies can now quickly identify the locations of water leakage and fix them immediately. By doing so, their costs can be greatly reduced.
Q: What 5G or IoT technology is the most exciting for you in terms of the way it will change the way you live or work in your life?
A: We know 5G has not been fully commercialized yet. I am looking forward to future uses of 5G. I find that in some scenarios, it may be better that machines take on certain jobs instead of humans. With the support of 5G technologies, smart robots can work for humans, and at the same time ensure accuracy and safety.
When 5G is available for commercial use, including some of the more sophisticated applications of IoT, I believe the heavy traffic situation in China can be addressed. I also look forward to VR and AR applications, which can help you experience truly exceptional things regardless of your location. It’s exciting to think that I could listen in on lectures of Harvard professors anytime in Shenzhen. For my son, he wants to watch NBA games through VR or AR as if he were seeing a game live. This could be one of the most exciting parts of AR and VR applications.
Q: This week Huawei announced earnings results and recorded more than CNY 105 billion in revenue with limited traction in the U.S. market. Why is the U.S. market so important to Huawei?
A: People from outside Huawei are concerned whether Huawei’s business has been affected by the U.S. government’s campaign against us. We have been asked about this numerous times, so we’d rather disclose our business results in Q1. We enjoyed a 39% growth in revenue over the same period last year.
I personally find the U.S. market very attractive, but U.S. consumers have not had much opportunity to use Huawei products. In fact, Huawei products are very advanced and secure, and U.S. consumers are paying higher prices for information network services and smartphones than European and Asian consumers. We look very much forward to providing products and services for U.S. consumers. The U.S. market will not become a key market for us in the short term, because the U.S. government won’t currently let us do business in the country.
Editor’s note: This interview was facilitated by a translator and lightly edited for clarity.
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