US finally starts processing Huawei entity list applications

Having sat on hundreds of applications by US companies to continue working with Huawei, the US government has announced it has finally got around to considering them.

News of this latest piece of glacial progress comes courtesy of Reuters, which has been chatting to unnamed people who reckon they know what they’re talking about. They say the US Department of Commerce is now deciding which of those applications to grant, but give not indication of how much of a hurry it’s in.

This development is presumably linked to the recent decision to extend Huawei’s temporary general license yet again. That, in turn, belies what has been fairly obvious for a while, that this whole Huawei saga is less about security than it is about the broader trade negotiations and general geopolitical tussle between the US and China.

The US has the power to cripple Huawei’s smartphone business by banning Google from working with it. This represents a powerful bargaining chip and one that is clearly in play during the negotiations. The clear implication from all this activity is that, if China gives the US what it wants in trade negotiations, it will back off from Huawei.

Nokia celebrates 50th 5G deal win but it still lags Ericsson and Huawei

Being chosen by Spark New Zealand for some 5G work marks Nokia’s 50th 5G commercial contract, but Ericsson and Huawei have got more.

“I am thrilled to see Nokia 5G equipment chosen to power 5G initially in Spark’s heartland areas,” said Tommi Uitto, President of Mobile Networks at Nokia. “We are committed to keeping New Zealanders at the cutting edge of technology and are confident they will benefit from Nokia’s global reach, expertise and agility.”

“We are delighted to be continuing our partnership with Nokia in building our 5G network across New Zealand,” said Rajesh Singh, General Manager of Value Management at Spark New Zealand. “The local teams have collaborated extensively on a 5G solution that delivers on the outcomes we want to drive in 5G, not just in the RAN, but also in the end-to-end network.”

All this thrilling and delightful business takes Nokia’s 5G commercial contract count to 50. That’s a decent tally, but in the great global 5G race that still only earns it a bronze medal. Ericsson keeps a public tally of its 5G wins and puts the total at 76, with 31 of those publicly named and 23 transmitting shiny new 5G beams as you read this. Nokia says it’s involved in 16 live networks.

Huawei is less transparent about these things but the last we heard it had signed at least 60 5G contracts. Given Nokia’s recent admission about dropping the ball on 5G, the fact that it’s still in touch with the other two isn’t a bad effort, but if that gap continues to increase we might see fewer press releases referring to Nokia deal wins in future.

Huawei extensions show what a shambles US Government is right now

The US Commerce Department has granted a third 90-day extension to Huawei’s Temporary General License (TGL), pushing back the ban deadline to February 2020.

The credibility of the US Government is starting to look very feeble as it once again fails to deliver on a promise it made to its citizens on the grounds of national security. Since President Donald Trump signed the document to ban US companies from doing any business with Huawei, very little has actually changed.

“The Temporary General License extension will allow carriers to continue to service customers in some of the most remote areas of the United States who would otherwise be left in the dark,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.

“The Department will continue to rigorously monitor sensitive technology exports to ensure that our innovations are not harnessed by those who would threaten our national security.”

And while the Commerce Department might have the smaller, rural telcos in mind with this announcement, it might well be undermined by the FCC in a few days’ time.

On Friday, the FCC Commissioners will all vote on whether the use of funds from an $8.5 billion government programme to purchase equipment or services should be restricted. The restrictions would effectively ban the smaller telcos from working with companies who are deemed a threat to national security, in short, Huawei and ZTE.

The FCC’s Universal Service Fund is designed to offer government subsidies to smaller rural telcos which plug the gaps in the connectivity landscape. These difficult to reach, or commercially unattractive areas are often overlooked by the four major MNOs. For Huawei, these highly-regionalised telcos are effectively its only customers, though the have been targeted by both the FCC and Congress.

Alongside the ban from using FCC funds to purchase materials or services from Huawei or ZTE, Congress is also considering legislation which would free up an additional $1 billion for the rural telcos. These funds would be used to ‘rip and replace’ existing Huawei or ZTE components from the networks.

This is where the Commerce Department is slightly confusing matters; it is a complete contradiction from the actions of the FCC and Congress. Remarkably, as the FCC and Congress is heading one direction, Ross and his cronies seem to be pulling elsewhere.

And despite this seemingly being good news, Huawei doesn’t seem to be paying too much attention.

“Extending the Temporary General License won’t have a substantial impact on Huawei’s business either way,” a Huawei spokesperson said. “This decision does not change the fact that Huawei continues to be treated unfairly either.

“We have long held that the decision by the US Department of Commerce to add Huawei to the Entity List has caused more harm to the US than to Huawei. This has done significant economic harm to the American companies with which Huawei does business and has already disrupted collaboration and undermined the mutual trust on which the global supply chain depends.”

While we’re not too sure about the ‘significant’ damage done to US firms, though Huawei is surviving the assault from the US Government. It has lost out in some markets due to political pressure from the White House on allies, Australia and Poland for example, but this is not the economic dirty bomb which President Trump might have hoped for.

With another extension to last through to February 2020, the Huawei ban is starting to look very similar to Brexit. Not only is it looking more likely that it will never actually happen, the underlying rationale is starting to look feeble.

If Huawei is such a threat to national security, as many have been saying for years, why does the Commerce Department feel it is OK to offer such extensions. Why would Ross intentionally put US citizens in harm’s way? The paper veil excuse of national security to cover up the real goal is starting to look pathetic, but since when has logic made any material impact on today’s political elite.

With the White House failing to back-up the tough talk on Huawei, national security concerns being waved aside and other US agencies working to ban Huawei despite the extension, US politics is looking like little more than a shambles. A confusing patch-work of egos colliding and shiny teeth blocking meaningless statements.

Huawei gives extra bonuses to staff that helped counter US sanctions

Embattled Chinese kit telecoms giant Huawei has decided to chuck a bunch of cash at its employees to thank them for hanging in there.

A bunch of different media have all claimed some kind of scoop over an internal email sent by Huawei HR to the entire company. The long and short of it seems to be that Huawei has decided to dish out two billion yuan in one-off bonuses to those staff considered to have done the most to counter the evil machinations of the US and its entity list. On top of that nearly every Huawei employee got double pay in October. Any employees that didn’t get either must be pretty unimpressed.

We haven’t been able to get anything official from Huawei, but have been assured that the reporting is legit. It looks like the R&D and supply chain teams directly involved in trying to find alternatives to the goods and services the US ban is preventing Huawei from accessing are getting most of the bonus pool, which will probably amount to around 100,000 yuan (£11,000) per employee.

Much of the reporting features anonymous insiders stressing how incredibly generous this is of Huawei, so the company is clearly milking its generosity for PR points. That doesn’t mean it’s not a smart move on its own merits, however. Not only will it help steady the nerves of its employees, it also sends out a message that money isn’t a problem in spite of the US doing its worst. Shame there are no bonuses being offered for excellence in telecoms reporting.

UK security chiefs reportedly warn PM against banning Huawei

The UK is much less likely to hit ambitious broadband targets if Huawei isn’t involved in the 5G network, Johnson has apparently been told.

The report comes courtesy of the Mail, which reckons the National Security Council has been warned that Prime Minister Johnson can forget hitting his 2025 fast broadband targets if the UK’s 5G network isn’t up to scratch. This would apparently be made inevitable if we didn’t let Huawei participate, the NSC has apparently conveyed to the PM.

When BoJo first announced his ambition broadband targets they seemed to be focused entirely on fibre, but it looks like he has been subsequently advised that there’s this thing called fixed wireless access that is really handy for connecting remote locations. His patient telecoms advisors will presumably have then pointed out that the kind of FWA needed to help him hit his targets would require a decent 5G network, hence the Huawei angle.

This leak to the Mail, presumably from somewhere in the government, seems designed to serve two purposes. The minor purpose is to rebrand BoJo’s pledge as being focused on outcomes rather than technology types. But the main reason for it is probably to provide cover for the decision not to block Huawei from the 5G network, which seems to have been made already but won’t be announced until after the general election.

US President Trump is a Johnson supporter, but that relationship will be strained if BoJo decides not to tow the US line on Huawei. Maybe BoJo is hoping to use his own broadband pledge as mitigation during the inevitable awkward conversation he will have with Trump after announcing he’s not blocking Huawei from the UK 5G network.

Back to basics for Huawei as China remains the bedrock of success

Pretty much everyone in the technology world knows Huawei is under pressure, though with its dominance of the Chinese market, it has more than enough to weather the storm.

According to new estimates from IDC, Huawei has now officially become number one in the market share rankings for tablets in China. These estimates follow smartphone shipment figures which demonstrate extraordinary dominance from the under-fire firm.

Over third quarter of 2019, Huawei shipped 2.12 million tablets, up 24.4% from a year ago, to take 37.4% of the total market. It has leap-frogged Apple to lead the market, the iLeader currently controls 33.8% of shipments, while the rest of the field are no-where near the leading two. Xiaomi currently sits in third position, with market share of 5.9%, a decrease of 47.4% year-on-year.

Although increased tablet sales in China are not going to compensate for the troubles which Huawei are facing in the international markets, alongside the smartphone dominance during the same period, it demonstrates the comfortable position Huawei is currently in.

Talking of smartphone shipments, as you can see from IDC’s figures below, the strong market share position is duplicated.

2019 Q1 2019 Q2 2019 Q3
Shipments (Million units) 29.7 36.3 41.5
Market share 35.5% 37% 42%
Year-on-year growth 40% 27% 64.6%

And even with heavy criticism from the White House, Huawei is maintaining its position as the leading network infrastructure vendor worldwide. In the third quarter, Dell’Oro estimate Huawei owned 28%, though some might suggest this is due to its dominance of the Chinese market. The firm has been missing out on valuable contracts in some European markets though it doesn’t seem to be having a disastrous impact.

Noise from the White House might be starting to have an impact on the Chinese vendors influence on certain Western markets, but let’s not forget how Huawei created such a dominant position in the first place.

Some might suggest the dominance of Chinese companies on the Chinese market is only due to an uneven playing field, Western challengers might be handicapped when it comes to competition, but this is largely irrelevant. This is not a situation which is likely to change in the future, regardless to the number of complaints, therefore it should be accepted.

This dynamic afforded Huawei the confidence to aggressively expand in bygone years, and it will continue to be a comforting thought as uncomfortable aggression floats both directions out of the US.

With continued dominance in the Chinese smartphone, tablet and network infrastructure segments today, Huawei has firmed up its bank accounts. The spreadsheets will not be under anywhere near as much threat as they potentially could have been, as the management team can rely on revenues continue to flow through the domestic market. This is the same position Huawei was in prior to its international expansion.

Huawei is not necessarily a Chinese company anymore. Yes, it was founded in China and the country continues to house its headquarters, but this an international beast with considerable influence around the world. The management team will not be happy its international revenues are being eroded, though the Chinese domestic market can prop this giant up; it is that big.

Irrelevant to the amount of noise coming out of the White House, and regardless of the success it has in convincing its allies to ditch Huawei as a vendor, it will always have the Chinese domestic market to lean on. And as long as it is still one of the country’s leading companies, it will always have the opportunity to expand aggressively internationally. It just has to wait for the anti-China rhetoric to die down, like it did in the early 2010s.

SK Telecom wins big at the 2019 Global Telecoms Awards

In the year that 5G finally made its commercial debut, Korean operator SK Telecom’s fast start helped it win three awards at the 2019 Glotels.

As well as being voted the best operator of 2019, SK Telecom also won awards for 5G implementation and BSS/OSS transformation. Not content with its three wins, SK Telecom was also highly commended in the consumer IoT and fixed network categories, bringing its awards total on the night to five. Other notable performers were Huawei, with two wins and a highly commended, and ZTE with one win and two highly commended.

“I feel confident in saying that this was the strongest set of entries to the awards we’ve had yet,” said Editor Scott Bicheno (pictured above with Chang-min Park of SK Telecom), who hosted the awards alongside comedian Miles Jupp and was also one of the judges. “Our judges had a really tough job choosing between so many great products, services and projects this year and for that I thank them. The fact that so many entries were highly commended shows how close the scoring was. My congratulations to the winners and thanks everyone who contributed to our best awards yet.”

Here’s the full list of winners:

5G Implementation Excellence  

Winner – SK Telecom: World’s First 5G Commercialization


Advancing Artificial Intelligence               

Winner – Telefónica: Aura

Highly Commended – Nokia: AI as a Service for CMCC Hainan


Automation Initiative of the Year             

Winner – Huawei: AUTIN


Best 5G Innovation         

Winner – Vodafone Germany: Automotive Factory of the Future

Highly Commended – China Mobile, China Southern Power and Huawei: Smart Grid 5G Slice Operation and Monetization


Best Digital Transformation Project        

Winner – Infosys and Vodafone UK: Digital Platform

Highly Commended – Singtel: Unboxed


Best Operator    

Winner – SK Telecom

Highly Commended – Reliance Jio Infocomm


BSS/OSS Transformation Excellence        

Winner – SK Telecom: OSS Evolution for E2E integration and 5G Business


Connecting the Unconnected     

Winner – Ufinet: Rural connectivity case studies


Consumer IoT Initiative of the Year         

Winner – O2 and Accenture: Making UK homes smarter energy users

Highly Commended – SK Telecom: V2X Service Enabler (VSE)


Digital Transformation Innovation          

Winner – BT: The Digital Business Marketplace

Highly Commended – Netcracker: Digital Transformation Solution


Fixed Network Evolution             

Winner – Turkcell: Customer Oriented Failure Prioritization and Complaint Management

Highly Commended – SK Telecom: Giga Premium 10G Residential Broadband Internet Service


Ground-breaking Virtualization Initiative            

Winner – AT&T: Edge Solutions


Industrial IoT Initiative of the Year          

Winner – Dialog Axiata: Affordable and Purpose-built IoT Solutions for Industries in Emerging Markets

Highly Commended – ZTE:  ZTE NMVP Solution


Innovating in the Cloud 

Winner – MYCOM OSI: The Assurance Cloud


Managed Services Innovation of the Year            

Winner – Ericsson and Telenor: Common Delivery Center for innovative Managed Services model

Highly Commended – Saudi Telecom Company: STC Fixed Network Customer Operations Service transformation


Mobile Device Innovation           

Winner – Reliance Jio Infocomm: JioPhone


Mobile Money Mastery 

Winner – AsiaHawala and Comviva: AsiaHawala powered by mobiquity Money


Most Innovative Cloud Service  

Winner – Tata Communications Transformation Services: Cloud Networking and Security as a Service

Highly Commended – Red Hat: Red Hat open hybrid cloud technologies


Project Delivery Perfection         

Winner – ZTE: ZTE for China Mobile ‘He-Fetion’ Project

Highly Commended – X by Orange: X by Orange with Red Hat


Security Solution of the Year      

Winner – Mobileum Signalling Firewall

Highly Commended – CUJO AI: AI-powered cybersecurity technology


Telecoms Transformation            

Winner – Huawei: NFV-SDN based telco cloud technology initiative

Highly Commended – ZTE: 5G Slicing Wholesale Solution for New B2B2C Business Model


Türk Telekom and Huawei claim new 5G speed record

Huawei decided it was time to break some records so it set up a test network that seems to have been designed solely to do that.

The project was undertaken in Istanbul, in partnership with Türk Telekom. The specific record claimed is single-user 5G speed – i.e. to a single device. The two of them managed to hit 2.92 Gbps, which they claim is faster than the previous record-holder, although they don’t how much by.

“We combined two 5G carriers and established a new world record by reaching speeds of above 2.92 Gbps in our live 5G test network,” said Yusuf Kıraç, Türk Telekom’s CTO. “We are also the first operator to experiment with the 5G New Radio Carrier Aggregation Technology (C-Band NR Carrier Aggregation), which doubles the 5G link speed. Türk Telekom will continue to lead the development of all new generation technologies that our country needs in the future, as we do today.”

“In today’s test, what we have achieved is not only a record in Turkey but also a world record for 5G speed,” said Simon Pei, Deputy Country General Manager of Huawei Turkey. “Based on C-band 200MHz IBW and 2CC Carrier Aggregation technologies which only Huawei products can support, the test was performed in Türk Telekom’s test network with Huawei 5G commercial network equipment.”

Huawei seems to be on one of its European charm offensives this week. It also issued a press release about a study into how important Huawei is for the European economy, another about some EMEA certification that it thinks is a big deal and one more about its attendance at the Web Summit in Lisbon. On top of that the Huawei Chairman is going to live stream another of his chats tomorrow, which will presumably feature plenty of talk about how much better off Europe is with Huawei involved.

US on the verge of signing some kind of trade deal with China

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has said his country is close to signing a deal with China that could lead to an easing of some trade restrictions.

Ross (pictured) said as much to Bloomberg, with the usual caveats about nothing being set in stone. Many media have been reporting their own conjecture about what this could mean for Huawei as fact, but Ross was keen to stress this deal doesn’t affect the ‘entity list’, which prevents US companies doing business with Huawei.

There was some couched optimism about licenses being granted, that would enable specific companies to conduct specific trade with Huawei, but then again the US has been sitting on a bunch of license applications for a while without apparently granting any. Arguable the biggest of these would be one that allows Google and Huawei to work together, thus enabling the latter to install the full version of Android on its phones.

It’s all very well for Ross to insist the entity list and the trade war are unrelated, but US foot-dragging over granting those licenses implies the contrary. Trade wars are a game of chicken in which each side raises the stakes to give them more weight in negotiations. Putting national champion Huawei in existential danger via the entity list is just too convenient a negotiating chip for its to be plausible that the two issues are unrelated.