Huawei launches new UK charm campaign, but misses the point

Running through various newspapers as full-page adverts, Huawei has written an open letter to validate its position in the UK, but that is unlikely to be enough to remove the ‘high risk vendor’ label.

With the company under renewed pressure thanks to US political posturing and UK backbencher revolts, this letter is seemingly directed towards validating its own position in the market, building a public profile and easing security concerns.

The current strategy seems to pay little attention to the ‘high risk vendor’ designation which is plaguing Huawei’s reputation. If posturing politicians have their way, all ‘risk’ will be removed from the telecoms supply chain, effectively ending Huawei’s presence in the UK. But that doesn’t seem to be an immediate concern today.

“We’ve been here for 20 years and were integral in building the 3G and 4G networks we all use every day,” said Huawei VP Victor Zhang.

“Today’s letter underlines Huawei’s ongoing commitment to improving connectivity for everyone in the UK. As a private company, 100% owned by employees, our priority has been to help mobile and broadband companies build a better-connected UK.”

For those in the know, the quality of Huawei’s products is unquestionable; it owns the most market share as it is the market leader. Its software might be a bit suspect, but the same could be said about Ericsson and Nokia, these are companies where DNA is hardware-based. The issue with Huawei seems to be that it is Chinese.

Politicians are keen to avoid such xenophobic statements, but not so much here. In Washington, and more recently London, politicians have focused on alleged links to the Chinese Government. President Trump has made no secret of this, while Conservative backbenchers in the UK, led by Sir Iain Duncan Smith, are building a campaign to ensure telecoms networks has 0% exposure to ‘high risk vendors’.

0% exposure to ‘high risk vendors’ would be a shift in the political tides, one which would be difficult for telecoms operators to weather and very difficult for Huawei to survive.

What is worth noting, is that during the initial assault from the rowdy backbenchers, Minister for Digital Infrastructure Matt Warman suggested 0% for ‘high risk vendors’ is a Government objective. This position has been suggested once again with rumours alleging Prime Minister Boris Johnson is drawing up a three-year strategy to tackle ‘high risk vendors’.

As a result of the Telecoms Supply Chain Review, which was concluded in January, Huawei has been designated a ‘high risk vendor’ and as such cannot contribute more than 35% of a telcos network equipment. This means two things; firstly, the implicit risk can be managed by the telcos, assuming Huawei remains transparent, and secondly, Huawei is not 100% trusted.

Huawei has said numerous times before that the UK has taken an evidence-based approach to evaluating risk in the telecoms supply chain. But, if the Government drops the acceptable levels of exposure to ‘high risk vendors’ to 0%, is there anything which Huawei can do about being Chinese?

What is worth noting is that Huawei has done a lot to combat these claims.

In 2011, it started working with the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) to shore up its operations resulting in the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre. It has allowed telcos to inspect its technology and code during the due diligence stages of procurement. It has been as transparent in an effort to ease security fears.

Despite these efforts, Huawei was still designated a ‘high risk vendor’ during the Telecoms Supply Chain Review.

This is the challenge which Huawei faces. It needs to remove the label or should trends continue on this path, it will face some serious consequences. But the issue is that there does not seem to be any new initiatives on the horizon. Or at least none which Zhang and his colleagues were able to point to on a media call this morning.

Albert Einstein suggested that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing but expecting different results. If Huawei continues the same strategy, it will remain a ‘high risk vendor’. And if the political winds keep blowing the same direction, ‘high risk vendors’ will be banished from UK telecoms networks.

Huawei needs the political climate to change, or new ideas. The status quo is a sleepwalk to UK extinction.

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  1. Avatar Colin Barnes 08/06/2020 @ 2:31 pm

    How can Huawei change it’s image when people insist on telling lies about in backdoors, it’s same as the old question ” have you stopped hiiting your wife” it cannot be answered.

  2. Avatar Stephen Thoms 09/06/2020 @ 8:57 pm

    Huawei needs to move out of China if they want to trade with the rest of the world. The Chinese government can force Huawei to give it access and Huawei would comply. Huawei is strongly supported by the CCP which is why their equipment is cheaper. The strategy is obvious.

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