Huawei Founder Offers Western Firm Full Access To 5G Technology

The founder of Huawei Ren Zhengfei has made an extraordinary peace offer to the United States, when he offered to sell the firm’s 5G technology to a Western buyer.

Zhengfei told the Economist that in return for a one-time fee, he would grant the buyer “perpetual access to Huawei’s existing 5G patents, licences, code, technical blueprints and production know-how.”

Last month Zhengfei had warned Huawei staff members to prepare for reform of the company, as it enters ‘battle mode’ to survive the US blacklisting. He also warned that Huawei was in a “live-or-die moment”.

Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei. Huawei

Open access

Zhengfei made the offer during an interview with the Economist, during which he said he was ready to share the technology.

According to the report, the buyer “could modify the source code, meaning that neither Huawei nor the Chinese government would have even hypothetical control of any telecoms infrastructure built using equipment produced by the new company.”

Huawei would likewise be free to develop its technology in whatever direction it pleases.

Zhengfei obviously sees this offer to sell its current 5G know-how to a Western firm as a way to address national security concerns.

One expert, who had previously cast doubts on Huawei’s claims to independence, told the BBC that the idea of it helping another country’s business to compete represented an “extraordinary offer.”

“Perhaps the explanation is that Huawei recognises that it is unlikely to be able to bypass the efforts the Trump administration is putting into minimising its scope to operate in North America, Western Europe and Australasia,” said Prof Steve Tsang from Soas University of London.

“But it’s difficult to see Nokia or Ericsson being interested in buying it,” he said. “And it’s also difficult to see how an American company would be able to reassure the Trump administration that it’s absolutely top notch American technology.”

“And if they can’t do that, why would they want to spend tens of billions of US dollars on something that will quickly become out-of-date,” he reportedly said.

National security

Huawei is currently on the US entity list, having been placed there ever since President Trump signed an executive order in May.

The US Commerce Department then immediately added Huawei and 70 affiliates to its so-called Entity List, which bans them from buying parts and components from US companies without US government approval.

The UK is expected to reach its own decision about the use of Hauwei’s 5G tech in the Autumn, and this week the UK defence minister confirmed that a decision is expected “pretty soon.”

But it should be noted that Huawei equipment is already in use in the UK’s existing 5G networks.

Indeed, it is reported that three of the UK’s largest wireless providers (EE, Vodafone, and Three) are all using Huawei to build their 5G networks.

The only exception to this is O2, which has instead opted to use 5G equipment from Ericsson and Nokia.

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Tom Jowitt @TJowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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