Following two months of public lobbying by U.S. legislators and security agencies, Chinese networking giant Huawei today confronted espionage accusations, dismissing them as “not fair” and “only based on groundless suspicion” while touting successes in other countries. The South China Morning Post and Agence France Presse provided English translations of Huawei chief executive Ken Hu’s Chinese-language comments, made today during a Mobile World Congress media event in Barcelona, Spain.
Hu indicated that while Huawei is glad to speak with governments and telecommunication companies about their security concerns, the company has a “very strong track record regarding security” and provides “products for 400 operators” without issues.
“It is not fair to us if our strong track record of security of the past 30 years has been disregarded while the [U.S. security] accusation is only based on groundless suspicion,” said Hu. “For the issue of security, we welcome discussions and debates based on the facts, but it is only groundless suspicion then it is not a constructive way to resolve the issue. The view that a company headquartered in China cannot be trusted is the view is problematic as a lot of leading ICT companies are spreading their value chains across the world and a lot of components are coming from China as well.”
Although Hu appeared to be suggesting that the U.S. security concerns might apply to any company headquartered in China, U.S. officials have focused on Huawei and ZTE rather than the broader Chinese supply chain, pointing to each company’s government ties and previous attempts to evade investigations. The heads of the FBI, NSA, and CIA all suggested that U.S. consumers avoid the two companies’ products and services, calling them risky as they are “beholden to foreign governments.”
Still, the security concerns are at this point more theoretical than tangible. U.S. officials have largely expressed concern about the risks Huawei networking gear and phones could pose to future U.S. and Australian 5G networks, specifically if China’s government demands backdoor access to data or control over foreign network resources. Both companies have called themselves trustworthy and suggested that there is no basis for the accusations.
Regardless of U.S. concerns, Huawei remains a leading global vendor of both 4G and 5G wireless gear, and alongside Samsung, is one of only two companies to have announced end-to-end 5G hardware that’s ready for 2018 commercial deployment. Today, Hu mentioned that Huawei already has 45 contracts for pre-commercial 5G, including trials in major capitals such as London, Tokyo, and Seoul. The company plans to spend $800 million in 5G research and development during 2018 alone.