Huawei acknowledges U.S. missteps, but has hopes for future growth

Huawei has been trying to break into the U.S. market for the past several years on network infrastructure, but has been stymied by national security concerns. While the Chinese vendor has been slowly making inroads via its device business, Huawei officials acknowledged they didn't do themselves any favors by not being as open as they could have been.

"We realized we were not good with communication," Charles Ding, the president of Huawei North America, said in an interview with CNET. "We didn't clarify who we are."

National security concerns torpedoed Huawei's bid to win part of a multibillion-dollar network modernization contract from Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S), which was ultimately awarded to Alcatel-Lucent (NASDAQ:ALU), Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) and Samsung. Ding told CNET that Huawei's lack of communication with the media and analyst community allowed the company's opponents to spread a misinformation campaign about Huawei, including that it has ties to the Chinese military, which Huawei has consistently and vehemently denied.

"We're more mature now," William Plummer, vice president of external affairs for Huawei, told CNET. Ding has moved to Washington, D.C., to be closer to the policy establishment there, and Huawei has hired a public relations and lobbying team. The more measured and open approach sits in contrasts to the steps Huawei took to try and win the Sprint contract. Those included the hiring of Amerilink Telecom to lobby the government on Huawei's behalf. The telecom consulting firm counted former Sprint executive Kevin Packingham as its CEO and attracted a roster of high-profile government and security luminaries. Still, it ultimately proved fruitless.

In the meantime, Huawei, like its smaller rival ZTE, has been working to get more business from U.S. carriers for its smartphones and tablets, and has had notable wins with both AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and T-Mobile USA. In December Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) launched a $20 Huawei-made Android smartphone, the Express, though the device did not carry Huawei's brand. Plummer said the company's goal is to get one of Huawei's premier smartphones, like the Ascend D quad, sold through one of the nation's top carriers.

Still, concerns dog Huawei. A powerful House intelligence committee in November launched an investigation into whether the increased presence of Chinese vendors like Huawei and ZTE in the U.S. infrastructure market will provide "the Chinese government an opportunity for greater foreign espionage." 

For more:
- see this CNET article

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