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Huawei sees hurdles in European enterprise push

The Chinese company is hoping to expand its footprint in the European enterprise IT market after setting up a new business unit, but needs to overcome reluctance from potential customers
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor

Huawei has acknowledged it faces an uphill battle as it tries to get a foothold as an enterprise IT supplier in Europe.

The Chinese infrastructure and device provider has pledged to make the region its "second headquarters", and it plans to create up to 500 jobs in Basingstoke within the next three years, in addition to setting up a base in Amsterdam. On Thursday, it conceded it still has some work to do to make inroads in the public-sector, finance, utilities and other European markets it is aiming for.

"We have developed a successful brand in the telecoms market, but in the enterprise market we're less known. So this is a challenge for us," Mario Fan, Huawei's enterprise chief for Western Europe, told ZDNet UK at a press event in Amsterdam. "Even though we have good solutions and technology, so far enterprise customers — CIOs and directors — are still reluctant to go ahead with Huawei enterprise solutions."

Huawei has had to battle suspicions that it is linked to the Chinese military. Partly to overcome this, it set up a cybersecurity testing centre in Banbury, monitored by the government intelligence agency GCHQ, to reassure potential enterprise customers that its products are suitable for use in the critical national infrastructure. In addition, it recruited former UK chief information officer John Suffolk, who oversaw the G-Cloud effort, as its global cybersecurity officer in August.

The company is also a major supplier to BT, and it has been in the running to take part in trials to bring Wi-Fi to the London Underground network. However, its plan is to broaden its scope beyond such communications projects, according to Fan.

"In the next decade, Huawei will be heading from CT [communications technology] to ICT [information and communications technology]," he said. "Enterprise business is playing a vital role in this transformation and strategies."

Its goal is to become one of the top three enterprise providers in the world within five years, he added. As part of this, Huawei will make a "significant investment" in Europe, he said, but would not specify an amount.

"Huawei [takes] $30bn (£18.9bn) in revenues every year. We are selecting Europe as a second headquarters, so it must be a very huge investment in terms of the overall business... The figure will be decided by corporate," Fan said.

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