With its eye on a piece of the National Broadband Network (NBN), Huawei has welcomed Australian government officials to visit its Shenzhen headquarters in an effort to improve its image in the country.
"If they are willing to come, we welcome them," Charles Huang Huawei's global marketing president told ZDNet.com.au. "And we would like you to convey that message to Australia that we are sincere in welcoming them to Huawei."
The company wants to shake off the perception its products are inferior and that it does not respect intellectual property rights, but Huang admits that some of its problems have been due to a communications shortfall with Australia.
He said rumours that the company was under the influence of the Chinese military was part of this. "I think the reason is that we don't have enough communication with the Australians".
Huawei has been cast as a threat to Australia's national security if its equipment was used by Optus to build the NBN.
"We know there are a lot of rumours that Huawei has government or military connections. Those rumours are ridiculous and we can't understand the logic behind it," said Huang.
Huang insists the company is wholly owned by its employees, not the government. "No other third party has any other ownership stake in Huawei," he said.
The connection to the Chinese military centres on its chief executive Ren Zhengfei's past as an officer in the People's Liberation Army. "So they think Huawei has those ties. Following that logic, we think that 70 per cent of enterprises have military ties because most of the young men in the world have served in the army. In Switzerland and Israel all young men have to serve in the army. Does that mean all the enterprises in Switzerland and Israel have military ties?" he asked.
But while the company attempts to become more open in the face of massive opportunities related to Australia's NBN, Zhengfei was not willing to meet with ZDNet.com.au or other Australian media who were invited to view its 1.3-square kilometre headquarters in Shenzhen this week.
The NBN is Huawei's best shot at breaking its reliance in Australia on "terminal equipment", such as the 3G dongles supplied via Vodafone, 3 and Optus. The company reported last month that these, along with network operator branded phones, accounted for 42.5 per cent of its US$245 million contracted Australian sales, while network equipment accounted for a quarter.
While the company provides network equipment to Optus, it missed out on Telstra's Next G network transformation, and Vodafone's 3G network expansion was built by Ericsson. Australian chief technology officer for Huawei Peter Rossi said the newly merged VHA remained an "obstacle", and told ZDNet.com.au that while it was yet to engage Telstra, growth was still possible via Optus.
"We have been growing with customers over the last five years, organically," said Rossi. "And the doors haven't been opened to the biggest spender in the Australian economy to grow that next step. That doesn't, however, preclude us from getting to that level. So others, with Optus being a competitor, will continue to grow steadily, so we will get to a larger size," said Rossi.
Liam Tung travelled to Huawei's headquarters as a guest of Huawei.