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Who is Huawei?

by Frances Stewart •
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Anyone attending CeBIT this year would have noticed that their entry pass was strung around their neck with a ribbon emboldened with the Huawei brand.

So who is Huawei, and can we expect to see them participating in the government market at any time soon?

Communist Party member and former People's Liberation Army officer Ren Zhengfei founded Huawei in 1988. Less than 20 years later it is emerging as a major global player in wireless phone and networking hardware. Spurred on by the demand for telecommunications services and equipment in China which has increased exponentially in these years, today Huawei has offices in 41 countries and competes with multinational companies such as Ericsson, Alcatel and Cisco, all of whom currently participate in the government markets in Australia.

Huawei closely guards it financial and corporate affairs. CEO Ren declines all contact with the media and little is known of Huawei’s upper management. This corporate privacy aside, Huawei is winning business with top network companies and the secret to their success appears to be their ability to significantly undercut competitor’s equipment prices.

Huawei claims that it is the quality of their products and services that has won them considerable business from the large telcos, despite only having a presence in Australia for a couple of years.

Cisco took action in the US courts in 2003 claiming that Huawei copied codes from Cisco routers. The suit was resolved, but neither company was willing to go public with details of the settlement.

As to whether Huawei will be seen in the government market, they will need to compete on 'value for money' criteria, just as all suppliers do. Value for money is assessed against not just price and degree of match to requirements, but against perceived or real risk, and this appears to be an area that Huawei will need to address given some of the market's perceptions. This is unless of course, it does its deals with agencies’ telecommunications and infrastructure management service providers, rather than the agencies directly.

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