BARCELONA, Spain — As Huawei Rotating Chairman Guo Ping took the stage at MWC Barcelona, he joked right off the bat: “There has never been more interest in Huawei, we must be doing something right.”
Of course, he was referring to the concerns surrounding Huawei’s security, which has been largely led and questioned by the United States government and has been a topic of discussion for vendors and operators at MWC this year. The U.S. has accused the vendor of using its telecommunications equipment as a tool for the Chinese government to spy on other countries.
Guo addressed these concerns directly saying, “Huawei has not, and we will never plant backdoors, and we will never allow anyone to do so in our equipment.”
He even went as far to say that its 5G was more secure than its previous generation networks.
These comments were a bit of a surprise, as analysts ahead of this week’s event did not expect the Chinese vendor to address these claims.
Guo spoke of the accusations made by the U.S. government stating that it has “no evidence, nothing.” Instead he turned it back on the United States: “The irony is that the U.S. Cloud Act allows their entities to access data cross borders.”
During his presentation he largely focused on the vendor’s innovation and technology leadership surrounding 5G before addressing these security concerns, later saying: “Huawei is leading in 5G globally, but we understand innovation is nothing without security.” Guo held that the responsibility for security was meant to be shared between technology providers, carriers, and the industry.
“We can’t use prisms, crystal balls, or politics to manage cybersecurity. We need to build a system we all can trust, we need aligned responsibilities, unified standards, and clear regulations,” said Guo.
For technology providers, he said, the responsibility is to comply with standards and build secure equipment. “What we promise is that we don’t do anything bad, we don’t do bad things,” he said.
Guo then placed additional security “requirements” that he saw for both carriers and the greater technology industry to implement and create standards of security.
For carriers, he said it was up to them to implement technologies that prevent external and internal attacks. Of the industry, he said there was a “shared responsibility” to build safer networks and called for standardized cybersecurity requirements. Guo said Huawei was in full support of Network Equipment Security Assurance Scheme (NESAS) — a voluntary security baseline scheme built by the GSMA and 3GPP for the mobile industry — and even went on to say that he would recommend extending this standard to the world.
Just this week, Huawei has made a number of global operator partnerships and product announcements surrounding 5G. Guo claimed that “Huawei is the first company that can deploy 5G networks at scale” and noted that Huawei is “far ahead of the game” in terms of single-site throughput.
The vendor this week has announced a partnership with Indonesia operator Telkomsel on the operator’s ICT infrastructure. And it signed an agreement with Malaysia operator Maxis to work on 5G trials in the region. Additional partnerships include communications service provider PT XL Axiata Tbk, the Indonesian branch of Axiata Group; Vodafone; UAE telecom operator Etisalat; South Korean carrier LG Uplus; and the Beijing arm of China Mobile.
In addition, Huawei has dedicated a significant amount of time to highlighting the innovation behind its 5G equipment. This includes the launch of its 5G-ready converged transport network platform that will allow operators to develop 5G services with simplified 5G transport and deployment. The vendor claims it already has more than 40 commercial 5G transport contracts.
Last year, Huawei released a series of artificial intelligence-based chips. Ping brought up these chips and its work with AI in his presentation, saying that these chips will bring intelligence to 5G use cases and reduce computing power costs. He also said that Huawei has developed algorithms and models for carrier networks.
Europe Falling Behind in 5G — Not on Huawei
Huawei has been a leading force in 5G. So much so that some operators have suggested that the ban of Huawei equipment from 5G networks, would set back the rollout by several years. This has been a big topic of discussion at this year’s MWC.
While he wouldn’t name Huawei, Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri addressed this at a press conference Sunday, stating that the idea that if certain vendors are held back, 5G will not happen in Europe — was incorrect. Instead, he said that Europe was constrained by lack of consolidation of operators and uncertainty surrounding spectrum allocation.
Ericsson CEO Börje Ekholm also pointed to the uncertain spectrum situation and lack of vendor consolidation as the reason Europe was falling behind in rolling out 5G at the company’s Monday press conference. And he added also that it wasn’t up to the vendors to address security, it was up to the nations.
In a keynote address Monday, Vodafone CEO Nick Reed also addressed these security concerns saying “A lot of operators turn to regulators and say it’s due to regulation but I think as an industry we need to start with ourselves first.”
Reed also suggested that the extreme regulations, competition in Europe, and “fragmented spectrums” were to blame for Europe falling behind.
The U.S. government has led the charge on banning Huawei this past year, and has called on its allies to join them. Some have, both Australia and New Zealand have banned equipment. And some have not. The U.K. this month stated that it did not think Huawei’s equipment was a threat to security; German media reports suggest that Germany will come to a similar conclusion.
However, it seems that even the U.S. government is split on the issue. On Twitter this week, President Donald Trump tweeted that he wanted the U.S. to “win through competition, not by blocking out currently more advanced technologies.”
In today’s speech, Guo said he agreed with some of President Trump’s tweets, particularly one that said the U.S. needed a more powerful, faster, and smarter 5G. Ping highlighted this against a report that he said found that a field test of Huawei’s 5G equipment was 20-times faster than U.S. 5G, though he did note that this was not a commercial use of the technology.