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The US-led campaign against Chinese telecommunications behemoth Huawei is now facing resistance from a number of major European operators.
Washington has been engaged in a sustained offensive attack on China’s major telecommunication vendors Huawei and ZTE over the last number of years.
However, that has heightened in recent months, with the United States labelling Huawei and ZTE as a severe threat to national security. US President Donald Trump is expected to issue an executive order later this week which would prohibit both Chinese vendors from being involved in wireless networks in the US.
In addition to this, lobbyists on behalf of the US convinced its allies Australia and New Zealand to prevent either company from participating in the rollout of their respective 5G networks. The US is now pressuring Europe to follow suit. Earlier this week, comments by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo added further fuel to the ongoing saga when he said that countries that use Huawei technology could hurt their relationship with the United States.
However, that has been met with resistance from major European operators who have discovered that they will have to fork out more to replace equipment from Huawei and ZTE, and that a blanket ban on both companies would significantly impact its ability to launch 5G services in the next twelve months, as Huawei is the global leader on 5G equipment.
A number of prominent executives from Europe’s top operators told The Wall Street Journal that Huawei hardware was much better than the rest on offer and often cost less; not using it could well mean that Europe would lag Asia and countries in other regions that use gear from Huawei for their 5G rollouts.
In addition to this, Nick Read, chief executive of Vodafone Group, was quoted as saying in January that a total ban on the carrier's use of Huawei equipment “would have significant financial cost, would have significant customer disruption and would delay 5G rollout in several countries”. The UK's four major wireless operators — Vodafone, BT Group, Telefonica and CK Hutchison Holdings' Three — were all against a ban.
But it is not only big carriers who prefer Huawei equipment, with Jersey Telecom, a publicly-owned company operating in the Isle of Jersey, also expressing a preference for Chinese equipment.
The company sought bids from both Chinese and Western companies in 2014 for its wireless network and while Huawei's bid 20% below the lowest Western offer, ZTE was 40% cheaper. Jersey Telecom chief executive Graeme Millar went with ZTE, and commented: "I have a genuinely high-class, low-cost supplier with ZTE, who haven’t let me down yet.”
The US stands accused of using Huawei and ZTE as political pawns in the ongoing trade war standoff between Washington and Beijing.
US President Donal Trump is set to issue an executive order later this week which would prohibit Chinese companies from being involved in wireless networks in the United States.
The exclusion of Chinese telecommunications behemoths Huawei and ZTE has drawn bipartisan support in the US House of Representatives, which is notable considering the fractious and hostile political climate in Washington under the Trump administration.
Reports emerging from Washington which cite unnamed sources close to the administration are saying the objective is to issue the order just before the commencement of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona at the end of this month.
The executive order would effectively mean a ban on all telecoms equipment supplied by both Huawei and ZTE, which would significantly hurt the coffers of both companies.
The hostility towards both Chinese vendors stems from allegations made by US intelligence agencies that both companies pose a very real threat to national security. However, both Huawei and ZTE vehemently deny the claims and have robustly defended their security record across the world.
The report did highlight that there was no decision yet on how 5G networks would be built in the US without equipment from Huawei.
At the moment, however, no plan had been drawn to manage without equipment from Huawei, with the main push coming from smaller rural ISPs who had benefitted from the use of equipment from the Chinese vendor due to the prices and good service.
US telecommunications operator Sprint has posted a disappointing performance in its financial returns for Q4 in 2018.
Taiwanese electronic colossus Foxconn has now admitted that it is currently reassessing its plans to invest in a new $10bn factory in Wisconsin.
When first announced it was hailed as a significant win for US President Donald Trump who had promised rust-belt states that he would breathe new life into the manufacturing sector and create millions of jobs.
However, that deal now may be dead in the water due to the ongoing dispute between Beijing and Washington that is becoming increasingly toxic.
Foxconn manufactures devices and components for a host of the world’s leading technology leaders including Apple, and had previously unveiled its plans to build the $10 billion plant to make LCD flat screen televisions which would also in turn create around 13,000 new jobs.
The investment was vetoed by $4bn in controversial tax concessions which were embraced by Trump who said the deal was another illustration of his campaign promise which was to put America ‘first’ again. Trump has also tried to strong arm other tech giants like Apple offering them tax breaks if they move manufacturing back to the United States.
Trump appeared with Foxconn CEO Terry Gou at a groundbreaking ceremony proclaiming and stated that, "This is just the beginning. This is one of the largest plants in the world."
However, the global economic climate roiled by Trump's trade war with China where Foxconn has most of its assembly lines -- has led officials at the Taiwanese company to look again at the plans.
"The global market environment that existed when the project was first announced has changed. As our plans are driven by those of our customers, this has necessitated the adjustment of plans for all projects, including Wisconsin," Foxconn said in a statement Thursday.
However, Foxconn has moved swiftly to deny it’s pulling out of the proposed investment and released an official statement saying it is remained committed to building its science park in Wisconsin and wants to help create 13,000 jobs".
Woo told Bloomberg, "We’re not scrapping our plans at all. However, given the global economic conditions and the trade tensions between China and the US, its’ impossible to say that we can always stay committed to our original plan without any change."
South Korean conglomerate Samsung has suffered a blow following the announcement that the CEO of Samsung Electronics in North America has decided to retire.
Tim Baxter has been with the company for over 12 years and has played a pivotal role in establishing Samsung as a powerhouse in the North America ICT market in his role as CEO.
Baxter has shown incredible leadership and vision and as ensured Samsung’s products has resonated with American consumers. He announced his decision to retire in a LinkedIn post, and confirmed that he pass the reins to his current deputy in North America Young Hoon Eom.
Samsung confirmed the departure in an official statement to Mobile World Live and placed on record its sincere thanks to Baxter who they described as an ‘exceptional business leader’ that has helped define Samsung as a pioneering innovator in the consumer electronics industry.
Baxter joined Samsung as EVP of sales and marketing for consumer electronics in 2006, and held various leadership positions before being appointed to his current post in July 2017. The role gave him full autonomy of Samsung’s $30 billion consumer and enterprise businesses in the US and Canada, including oversight of teams across mobile, consumer electronics, home appliances, customer care, services and new business.
The move comes at a pivotal moment as mobile operators across the US and Canada, start the transition towards the deployment of 5G. All four tier-one US operators have confirmed that they are working with Samsung on 5G handsets set for release in the first half of 2019.
The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has completed its first 5G auction, with a sale of 28GHz spectrum licensing which raised a cool $702 million.
The chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai expressed his delight at the successful completion of the first auction and said that it represented a significant step towards positioning the United States as a leader in 5G.
In addition to this, he declared that it was the objective of the commission to continue to pursue its strategy of pushing more spectrum licenses into the commercial marketplace. It was also confirmed that a 24GHz auction will take place in the next few months, and that will be followed by three more spectrum bands later in 2019.
The chairman of the FCC said that by that spectrum auctions were critical in helping it execute on its goal which enables US consumers to benefit from the benefits provided by 5G.
He said, “By making more spectrum licenses available, promoting the deployment of wireless infrastructure, and modernising our regulations – the three components of the FCC’s 5G FAST plan – we’ll ensure that American consumers reap the substantial benefits that will come from the next generation of wireless connectivity.
A total of 3,072 licences offered in 425MHz blocks were up for grabs in the 28GHz auction. Of these, only 107 received no acceptable bids. However, the identities of the winning bidders will remain private and anonymous until the close of the 24GHz auction.
Earlier in the month the FCC had reiterated its desire to continue to work on scheduled spectrum auctions, as it prepared to temporarily close down most of its other operations.
In November 2018, the agency had said it set strict performance requirements for the licences to encourage the swift rollout of 5G services - and will take dim view on any attempt to seek a waiver of the requirements ahead of construction deadlines.
US telecommunications behemoth Verizon has announced that it has reduced its workforce in its media division in an effort to realign and restructure its overall business strategy.
Hundreds of jobs are expected to be lost from the operators’ media unit which includes former internet giants such as Yahoo and AOL. A source close to Verizon said the amount of jobs lost amounts to 7% of the overall staff.
Verizon’s media unit has been a successful extension to its comprehensive ICT portfolio - popular news sites such as the Huffington Post and TechCrunch generate large visitors to their websites on a daily basis.
Whilst the number of jobs being lost remains speculative, the reputable Wall Street Journal has reported that around 800 positions will be lost following the decision by Verizon to overhaul its business strategy.
The unit's chief executive Guru Gowrappan, who took over in October 2018, made the changes after a strategic review which determined the group would prioritize "Yahoo's member-centric ecosystem" along with ad technology and video products.
Responding to AFP, Verizon Media said in a statement: "Our goal is to create the best experiences for our consumers and the best platforms for our customers. Today marks a strategic step toward better execution of our plans for growth and innovation into the future."
Verizon, which also operates one of the largest US telecom networks, last year wrote down the value of its Yahoo acquisition by some $4.6 billion.
The French government has announced that it will be instructing operators to allow them more oversight and control in relation to the rollout of 5G networks due to increased security concerns.
The decision by the French government comes on the back of speculation that a number of Western nations are considering banning Chinese telecommunications vendor Huawei from bidding on contracts for 5G deployment, amidst fears that Beijing would be able to gain access to sensitive communications and infrastructure.
Huawei should be the go-to vendor for operators globally, as it is well-ahead of its European rivals Nokia and Ericsson in relation to 5G equipment. However, Washington are lobbying its allies to prevent the Chinese telecommunications behemoth from being involved in their 5G networks as US intelligence agencies have deemed them a serious threat to domestic security.
Guillaume Poupard, head of France's national cybersecurity agency ANSSI, said a new law could be drafted in the forthcoming number of months in an effort to ‘toughen and extend’ authorization requirements in order to be sure we control the entire 5G network.
However, he insisted that approvals would not be refused "because of a company's image, or its country of origin".
Poupard told AFP, "There aren't good equipment makers on the one hand and bad equipment makers on the other -- unfortunately the situation is much more complex. The need for oversight is all the more critical since the base stations and other infrastructure for ultrafast 5G networks are much less centralized than current 4G systems.”
Huawei’s chairman Liang Hua told reporters at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that it would pull out of partnerships in hostile countries.
Liang said, “We do not pose a threat to a future digital society. The United States has not yet put forward any evidence to justify its claim that Huawei’s equipment could serve as a Trojan horse for Beijing's security apparatus.”
US technology giant Apple has announced that it will impose a recruitment cutback - which has been primarily forced due to weak sales on the company’s iPhone devices in the lucrative Chinese market.
Bloomberg has reported that Apple CEO, Tim Cook, announced the recruitment cutbacks just a day after he sent a letter to Apple investors that warned the company was bracing itself for a year-on-year decline in revenue for its fiscal Q1, which would shave $5bn from its guidance.
In a series of meetings that were held following the disclosure, it was reported that Cook informed some staff that a number of divisions would reduce hiring, but stated that he didn’t think a complete freeze in recruitment would be an appropriate solution to take.
In addition to this, it has been further disclosed that the CEO is also yet to determine which divisions will face hiring cutbacks. However, it is believed that divisions such as Apple’s AI team will not be affected due to the leverage of investment made by the US tech company into the emerging technology.
The move will also not affect plans to open a state-of-the-art new office in Austin, Texas or its expansion plans in Los Angeles, where the company is fleshing out its original video content ambitions.
Bloomberg also pointed out that Apple has hired new staff at a significant rate over the past decade. The company recruited 9,000 workers in its most recent fiscal year, taking the total up to 132,000, while adding 7,000 a year earlier.
Embattled Chinese telecommunications vendor Huawei has endured a miserable number of months – and is under intense scrutiny globally.
Huawei has become embroiled in a series of controversies and has been subjected to lurid allegations which claim the telecommunications behemoth is a security threat to nations that deploy its equipment due to its close ties with the Chinese government in Beijing.
The under-fire company suffered another setback when one of the world’s most famous academic institutions Oxford University, declined the opportunity to receive additional funding from the vendor.
A spokesman for the University said that it would not be pursuing new funding opportunities for both research contracts or philanthropic donations from Huawei and related group companies, although it did confirm that existing projects currently in place will continue.
The spokesman said, “We currently have two such ongoing projects, with a combined funding from Huawei of £692,000. However, after careful consideration we have decided to turn away future funding from Huawei and have informed them of our decision.”
Oxford confirmed that the decision to decline future funding from Huawei was due to the public concerns which have been expressed regarding the company’s operations. A Huawei executive was arrested in Poland last week on suspicion of espionage. In December, its CTO, Meng Hanzhou was arrested in Vancouver for alleged fraud in Iran.
The US have banned them for participating in the rollout of its 5G networks and has its allies New Zealand and Australia have followed suit. Washington is also instructed the UK and Japan to ban Huawei, whilst both the German and Canadian governments are considering banning them from their 5G programs over the security concerns raised by US intelligence.
However, Huawei has contradicted what Oxford University has stated, and is adamant that it has not been informed of any decision by the academic institution in relation to funding.
A Huawei spokesman said, “We have operated in the UK since 2001, employ 1,500 people here and have long standing research collaborations with 20 other UK universities working to develop the technologies of the future. We will await their decision.”