Huawei Technologies Co (華為) founder Ren Zhengfei (任正非) yesterday shrugged off US attempts to block his company’s global ambitions, saying the US underestimates the telecom giant’s strength.
Ren spoke to Chinese media days after US President Donald Trump issued orders aimed at thwarting Huawei’s business in the US, the latest salvo in a months-long effort to stop the company’s charge to the top of the leaderboard in next-generation 5G technology.
“The current practice of US politicians underestimates our strength,” Ren said, according to transcripts from state-run media.
“Huawei’s 5G will absolutely not be affected. In terms of 5G technologies, others won’t be able to catch up with Huawei in two or three years,” he said.
Last week, Trump declared a “national emergency” empowering him to blacklist companies seen as “an unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States” — a move analysts said was clearly aimed at Huawei.
At the same time, the US Department of Commerce announced an effective ban on US companies selling or transferring US technology to Huawei.
US Internet giant Google, whose Android mobile operating system powers most of the world’s smartphones, this week said it was beginning to cut ties with Huawei in light of the ban.
The move could have dramatic implications for Huawei smartphone users, as the telecoms giant will no longer have access to Google’s proprietary services — which include the Gmail and Google Maps apps — a source close to the matter told AFP.
However, the commerce department on Monday issued a 90-day reprieve on the ban on the transfer of technology by allowing temporary licenses.
“The US 90-day temporary license does not have much impact on us; we are ready,” Ren said.
Huawei has sought to ease customers’ concerns over the Google announcement.
Ren said Huawei and Google are discussing how to respond to the ban, calling the US firm a “highly responsible company.”
As for Huawei’s access to key components, Ren said half of chips used in the company’s equipment come from the US and the other half it makes itself.
“We cannot be isolated from the world,” Ren said.
“We can also make the same chips as the US chips, but it doesn’t mean we won’t buy them,” he said.
He denied reports that German chipmaker Infineon Technologies AG has halted shipments to Huawei.
Mobile phone parts producer Lumentum Holdings Inc on Monday was the first US company to confirm formally it was halting shipments to Huawei following export restrictions put in place by the commerce department.
The company, which is seen as a major supplier of Apple Inc’s Face ID technology, said it could not predict when it would be able to resume shipments.
Spain’s Telefonica SA also said it was reviewing the US order to see if it would affect its customers.
However, InterDigital Wireless Inc on Monday said that it could license its 5G network technology to Huawei, despite the threat of a US ban, and patent attorneys said Qualcomm Inc likely could also do so.
InterDigital and Qualcomm are the two major US holders of patents for wireless networking technology, including the 5G networks rolling out this year in China.
InterDigital, which generates revenue by developing wireless technologies and then licensing out the patents, said it believes it can continue its efforts to strike a 5G deal with Huawei because export control laws do not cover patents, which are public records and therefore not confidential technology.
“The addition of Huawei to the Entity List does not prevent InterDigital from entering into a patent license agreement with Huawei, because our patents cover technologies that are publicly available and therefore outside the scope of US export control laws,” InterDigital spokesman Patrick Van de Wille said in a statement.
The battle over Huawei has added to tensions in a trade war that has escalated between the world’s top two economies, with both sides exchanging steep increases in tariffs as negotiations have faltered.
Asked how long Huawei may face difficult times, Ren said: “You may need to ask Trump about this question, not me.”
Additional reporting by Reuters
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