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Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei

Huawei CEO: company willing to license 5G tech to US firms

Image credit: Reuters/Aly Song

Ren Zhengfei, CEO and founder of Huawei Technologies, has said that his company is prepared to license its 5G mobile technology to a US firm, in order to help alleviate the security concerns over the use of its products in that country.

Ren told reporters that he was not afraid of creating a rival by making Huawei's technology available to its US competitors and that the offer could also include proprietary chip design know-how.

"Huawei is open to sharing our 5G technologies and techniques with US companies, so that they can build up their own 5G industry. That would create a balanced situation between China, the US and Europe,” Ren said, in conversation with the New York Times.

Viewed as an olive branch to make peace with the Trump Administration, Ren acknowledged that: "The US side has to accept us at some level for that to happen.”

The development of 5G hardware is dominated by overseas players, such as China's Huawei and ZTE, Sweden's Ericsson and Finland's Nokia. There have been no American-based 5G telecommunications equipment manufacturers since Nokia acquired Alcatel-Lucent - Lucent also formerly a part of A&T - in November 2016. Qualcomm is a US company, but only makes 5G modems and antennas for smartphones.

If it were to be taken up, Ren's offer could give the US a significant boost in the 5G realm. According to Ren, prospective American licensees would be free to sell their 5G equipment anywhere in the world, except China.

Shenzhen-based Huawei, still the world's largest telecoms equipment manufacturer, has been on a US trade blacklist - the so-called 'Entity List' - since May 2019, over Trump Administration concerns that its equipment could be used by the Chinese government in Beijing to spy on US government and businesses. Huawei has repeatedly denied the allegations.

The sanctions imposed immediately cut off Huawei's access to essential US technologies and commercial partners. The latest version of its Mate 30 flagship phone, for example, unveiled last week in Europe, will not come with Google Mobile Services, as Google is currently prevented from working with Huawei.

Ren's latest remarks follow a similar proposition floated recently, in which he said he would be open to selling off Huawei's 5G technology - including patents, code, blueprints and production techniques - to Western firms for a one-off fee.

The offer to license 5G technology marks the latest attempt by Huawei to minimise the impact of the US trade ban. It expects to take a $10bn hit to revenue this year from its diminished phone business.

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