Huawei Australia CEO pushing more government 5G discussions

Huawei is holding increasing discussions with Australia's government, with new CEO George Huang praising the federal government 5G working group.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Huawei Australia chair John Lord and CEO George Huang

(Image: Corinne Reichert/ZDNet)

Huawei Australia's new CEO has praised the federal government's 5G Working Group, saying the Chinese networking giant is wanting to push more discussions with government.

Speaking during Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2018 in Barcelona, freshly minted chief executive George Huang said Huawei is having "closer and closer communication with the government".

"I do see the government as also more and more open to discuss with industry, the vendors," Huang said.

"The government set up a 5G working group last year, I think that's a very good initiative because you know 5G is not only a product or a technology, it is an ecosystem. It really requires the vendors, the customers, operators, industries to work together to make that happen.

"So I do see a very good initiative from the government, and Huawei are also very happy to work with the government. We are quite open to discuss anything with the government."

Huang had echoed statements from Huawei Technologies VP of Global Government Affairs Simon Lacey earlier this month, who told the Joint Standing Committee on Trade and Investment Growth that while national security concerns are important for governments globally, they cannot be used as "talismanic" exceptions for all public policy decisions.

"National security is important, but cannot be used to justify every policy intervention -- so we must remain vigilant, but on the other hand we cannot live in a state of constant fear looking over our shoulders," Lacey told the inquiry into the trade system and the digital economy.

"When acting to protect national security, we must ensure this is not used as a blank cheque to justify or disguise protectionism."

The comments followed a leaked paper allegedly from a senior national security official for Trump last month, which had expressed concern that Huawei has become a leader in 5G networking technologies due to support from the Chinese government.

Since then, US intelligence chiefs have advised Americans to avoid using Huawei smartphones, with Huawei having been banned from Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN) years ago due to such alleged ties.

Huawei is part of the Australian government's 5G working group, however.

During MWC, Huang told ZDNet in an interview that Huawei will be pushing into "many industries" to enable their digital transformation, including mining, oil, gas, agriculture, and transportation.

"For the customer perspective, especially for enterprise, most of the companies are in the era of transformation, transforming from their traditional way to a digital way, so we see this is a common chain in all industries. So Huawei is really -- we can help them to make this transformation happen," he said.

He also pointed towards Huawei's newly launched 5G customer premises equipment (CPE), saying he sees "potential" for this to be used in Australian networks.

Huawei is providing the networking, devices, and CPE for Optus' upcoming 5G fixed-wireless network -- and when asked whether he has met with Telstra during MWC to discuss involvement in its 5G rollout, Huang told ZDNet "we have meetings with many of the customers here".

"I want to try to continue to help our operators buy the new technologies that are coming -- 5G and before 5G, 4.5G -- to provide the better-quality equipment to our customers, better services to our customers," he added.

"For enterprise, this is definitely one of my focuses: I want to bring more and more products to the existing customers in mining, oil, and gas, and also explore more verticals to use our technologies, like managing agriculture, transportation."

Read also: MWC 2018: Huawei unveils first 5G customer premises equipment

On the Internet of Things (IoT) side, Huang told ZDNet that narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) will serve as an effective pre-5G network, particularly for agricultural applications.

"Before 5G comes, the NB-IoT could become the mainstream technologies, NB-IoT could be used for many industries," he said.

"The most interesting phase is now we are now exploring some applications for agriculture ... we are trying to introduce some NB-IoT for internet of cows."

Huawei is also looking to cooperate with the entire industry on this, as similarly to 5G, IoT is a "whole ecosystem".

In the consumer space, while it is looking to bring more devices into the Australian market, Huawei Australia chair John Lord told ZDNet that the company is still evaluating whether to bring in the new MateBook X Pro, but that it will not be bringing in the MediaPad M5 due to market saturation.

Huawei has also announced changes to its Australian board, bringing in two new members: Former Aurizon CEO Lance Hockridge and Huawei engineer David Xu.

"His management and experience delivering large infrastructure projects will complement our business as we continue to roll out 4.5G mobile networks and prepare for the 5G revolution," Lord said on Hockridge.

"He will also provide great insight for our growing Enterprise business as more and more mining and transport projects consider our world-leading communications and IT products and solutions."

According to Lord, the board is evolving to reflect Huawei's focus on enterprise in the Australian market.

"The board I think has to evolve, and this is just the first change," he said.

"There'll be others in the future, and start to really give George and his team the support in industries."

Disclosure: Corinne Reichert travelled to MWC in Barcelona as a guest of Huawei

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