Huawei vs US government at world's biggest wireless event this month

Huawei is a big sponsor of the Mobile World Congress. This year, the US is using the event to help nations focus on telecoms network security.
Huawei is a big sponsor of the Mobile World Congress. This year, the US is using the event to help nations focus on telecoms network security.PHOTO: REUTERS

BERLIN • Huawei Technologies, facing a widening global crackdown on its telecommunications equipment, is bolstering its presence at the industry's biggest conference in an attempt to land deals.

Its plans risk being foiled by a powerful foe: the US government.

US officials are also increasing the size of their delegation to the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona this month, saying they want to help other nations focus on the security of next-generation mobile gear. They are not calling the meeting a showdown with Huawei, but that agenda - provided by three officials who asked not to be identified - is a not-so-veiled reference to their concerns about the Chinese tech giant over espionage allegations and sanctions busting.

The American team plans to advocate for other providers of next-generation mobile gear, such as Cisco Systems, Ericsson and Nokia, according to one of the officials.

The effort comes amid an intensified campaign by the Trump administration in Europe, the Shenzhen-based Huawei's biggest market outside China, where governments in the UK, Germany, France and other places are weighing whether to restrict its gear from 5G networks.

The American focus on Huawei has extended from its equipment to charges that it stole intellectual property and violated sanctions on exports to Iran, in an escalation of tensions between the world's two biggest economies.

Huawei has denied wrongdoing and long maintained it does not provide back doors for the Chinese government, pointing out that no one has provided evidence to support such concerns.

  • 100k

    Number of people expected to attend the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this month.

    2k

    Number of companies represented at the show.

    4

    Number of days the conference, which starts on Feb 25, will last.

The US wants to convey its conviction that security of 5G networks is paramount because the technology is crucial as the world digitises, independent of an individual supplier, an official said.

MWC is a key annual event that has helped Huawei - a major sponsor of the gathering - burnish its reputation as the dominant telecoms equipment supplier.

Huawei signed several deals last year, including one with France's Bouygues Telecom to make Bordeaux the first city for a 5G network trial, and one with BT Group to do more joint 5G testing.

"We are continuing to grow at MWC," Mr Adam Mynott, a spokesman for Huawei, said by phone. "This remains our most important trade function of the year."

 

This year, Huawei will unveil a foldable 5G phone, demonstrate how the technology works in a joint presentation with Vodafone Group, and make executives available to network with journalists, politicians and clients.

About 100,000 people are expected to attend the four-day conference that starts on Feb 25, to see the latest phones, artificial intelligence gadgets and autonomous drones exhibited by some 2,000 companies.

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2019, with the headline 'Huawei vs US govt at world's biggest wireless event this month'. Print Edition | Subscribe