Huawei lives to fight another day

via Flickr © Janitors (CC BY 2.0)

via Flickr © Janitors (CC BY 2.0)

  • It’s all over bar the shouting, and there’s sure to be much more of that
  • But Huawei may have squeezed out a victory in Barcelona over allegations of back doorism
  • And for many European telcos it’s a case of 5G or bust, with Huawei along for the ride

Huawei must be feeling it’s had a good week at MWC. Far from being isolated at the world’s largest telecoms trade show, it prosecuted a two-pronged fight-back against US moves to have it and its technology ousted from as many countries’ networks as possible.

The first prong was the old prong. A continuation of the product announcement tsunami designed to convince the industry that any 5G ecosystem without Huawei in it would hardly be an ecosystem at all.

It hasn’t quite got that Huawei-flavoured... yet... but a glance at our TelecomTV Tracker reveals that 12 Huawei announcements were felt worthy enough to be entered into Tracker across the MWC week (we don’t enter every fluffy or puffy announcement), far ahead of any other company.

The same has been true for the year - Huawei is way out in front.

Splashing the Huawei name and logo about at MWC has also fostered this feeling of Huawei omnipotence.

Prong Two

The second prong was to use MWC keynotes to press home its case against the US allegations, and to highlight the growing pushback against US demands, even by members of the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence sharers, such as the UK and New Zealand, which are both looking to use expert mitigation of Huawei kit and software to allay fears over Huawei “back doors”.

Calling in the experts to conduct forensic examinations of all equipment and code (not just Huawei’s) was both a master-stroke in the debate and a sensible way forward, but it doesn’t seem to have interested the US which still seems determined to bully its way to a ‘win’.

Europe’s mobile leaders have also been calling on the US to show up or shut up over the mysterious ‘evidence’ it says it has of Huawei wrongdoing.

If it’s there it will have to be considerably more egregious than the case against Huawei Device Co Ltd, which has just pleaded not guilty to trade secrets conspiracy and other charges, in the US. The trial is set for a year from now.  

So what’s the earth-shattering allegation? What’s the technology so high that its alleged abduction was enough to threaten a major falling out between two of the world’s superpowers?  

It’s that T-Mobile had accused Huawei of stealing “Tappy,” a gadget (like some others I’ve seen) that mimicked human fingers tapping away to test how quickly, if at all, a smartphone gives up, or how many errors it generates etc. Huawei has said the two companies settled their Tappy dispute in 2017.

But perhaps the highlight was on Tuesday when Huawei’s Rotating Chairman, Guo Ping,  brought up just some of the US’s own cybersecurity issues.

This angle of attack has to be carefully done because it might make you look as if you’ve given up on your core arguments and are moving to distraction mode instead.  But Guo Ping’s referencing of the National Security Agency’s own internet collection programme, which came to light in 2013, was really just a scene-setter for the final assault in an article he had penned for the Financial Times.

Given the NSA’s proven history of doing all the things it was suggesting that Huawei ‘might’ be wanting to do itself,  Guo Ping maintained the real reason the US intelligence community was so worried about Huawei and its equipment was that, given its installation in enough countries - and armed with Huawei’s own cybersecurity software -  the NSA would no longer be capable of collecting all the data it wanted to.

Ouch! Asserting bad faith by the US intelligence community and the superiority of Huawei technology in one hit. Not bad going.

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