Huawei has made the extraordinary offer to sell its 5G technology and effectively create its own competitor in an effort to counter growing national security concerns and bans in the US and Australia.
In separate interviews with The Economist and The New York Times, Huawei chief executive Ren Zhengfei made the same offer: to sell the company’s 5G technologies to another company and allow them to alter it and build their own 5G infrastructure and networks with it.
For a one-off fee, Huawei would let the buyer access its 5G patents, licences, code, technical blueprints and production knowledge, and allow it to alter the source code. Huawei would then also develop its own technology and infrastructure to compete with the buyer.
This would in effect level the playing field in countries that are concerned about Huawei’s supposed connections with the China government and security risks with its technologies.
According to Zhengfei, a “balanced distribution of interests is conducive to Huawei’s survival”, and the money from the sale – likely to be tens of billions of dollars – would allow the company to make “greater strides forward”.
A Huawei spokesperson has confirmed that this is a “genuine proposal”.
It’s a significant olive branch offering from the tech giant in an attempt to overcome widespread national security concerns around Huawei’s involvement in 5G networks.
The company has been blacklisted by the US government following a Donald Trump executive order banning it from America’s communications network.
The Australian government has also banned Huawei from being involved with the construction and operation of the local 5G network.
According to The Economist, the latest olive branch from Huawei could allow a country like Australia to access the company’s cheap products without the national security risks.
“If the sale eventually gave rise to a thriving competitor, countries such as Australia would no longer have to choose between, on the one hand, technology in their networks that is both cutting-edge and cheap, as Huawei’s is, and, on the other hand, fears of Chinese eavesdropping,” the article said.
“They could have the best technology from an ally instead. Decisions on the purchase of telecoms equipment could then return from politicians to pragmatic boardrooms.”
Likely buyers of Huawei’s 5G tech stacks would be Europe’s Nokia and Ericsson, along with South Korea’s Samsung.
But Soas University of London professor Steve Tsang said this would be very unlikely.
“It’s difficult to see Nokia or Ericsson being interested in buying it,” Tsang told BBC News. “And it’s also difficult to see how an American company would be able to reassure the Trump administration that it’s absolutely top notch American technology. And if they can’t do that, why would they want to spend tens of billions of US dollars on something that will quickly become out of date?”
It comes as China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chungying has accused Australia of “disgraceful and immoral conduct” after reports the government has warned other countries over allowing “high risk vendors” like Huawei to provide 5G equipment.
Chungying said Australia is “lecturing” other countries, and its ban is “blatant discrimination” under the “pretext of national security”.
Huawei is facing growing worldwide concerns, and is making active efforts to reduce its reliance on US companies, mainly Google. The Chinese company has launched its own operating system, HarmonyOS, which will serve as a backup if Huawei loses access to the Android operating system.
It also recently announced its own mapping service, with Huawei’s smartphones currently running Google Maps, but the impending US ban puts this at risk.