Huawei: Everyone Believes in Us
At the vendor's Mobile User Congress last week, Huawei's wireless product line president Biao Wan and the division's VP, Zhu Tan, told Unstrung that their company has a different image now, compared to when it first emerged onto the telecom infrastructure scene.
"Ten years ago, no one knew Huawei, and no one trusted Huawei," said Tan. "Right now, everyone believes in us. [We have] better technology compared to our competitors."
The typical accusations aimed at the Chinese vendor in telecom circles are no secret. Among them (just to name a few) are that Huawei competes only on price; it gives equipment to operators to trial for free; and it has a virtually unlimited facility for vendor financing funded by Chinese banks. (See Heavy Reading Homes In on Huawei, The Trouble With Huawei..., Huawei to Finance Etisalat, and Huawei, ZTE Strike New Funding Deals.)
Unstrung put those claims to the Huawei men.
Wan would not comment on Huawei's ability to provide vendor financing. "We're not the right people to discuss this financial [issue]," said Wan.
But Tan refuted the claims that Huawei's contract wins were only the result of undercutting competitors' prices. "We're not just winning deals on price," said Tan. "Our most important advantage is technology and the quality of our products."
As for the charge of giving equipment away, Tan was less clear in his response: "It's difficult to see this clearly... whether [the] customer pays for this or not," he said. "We cannot say that it's paid or not paid, because it's complicated."
However, he said that Huawei did not have a policy of giving operators products to trial. "We need to earn money. That is our policy."
Leading, not following?
One of Huawei's key radio access customers is Canada's Telus Corp. (NYSE: TU; Toronto: T), which is deploying HSPA radio access equipment from Huawei and Nokia Networks and plans to upgrade the equipment to Long Term Evolution (LTE) one day. (See Canadians Leap to LTE, Telus Commits to HSPA, LTE, Telus CTO: 2G GSM's a No-Go, and Telus Follow-up.)
Telus was at the customer event in Munich, and CTO Ibrahim Gedeon -- who has put in 17 years at Nortel Networks Ltd. during his career -- admitted that the thought of choosing Huawei for the massive network upgrade was not easy for him at first.
"Huawei was known for reverse engineering of our [Nortel's] optical designs and Cisco routers," he said. But he said that after evaluating the equipment, he was "impressed with the home-grown native RF design that has been done."
So has the image of Huawei as a me-too vendor become a thing of the past?
In the radio access space, the work Huawei has done to develop software-defined, multi-radio products, which it calls SingleRAN, puts it with the leaders in wireless technology development, according to Heavy Reading senior analyst Gabriel Brown.
“Huawei is among the leaders in the SingleRAN concept -- it’s no longer a fast follower and has stepped up to the responsibilities that come with being a major global vendor,” says Brown. “They’re right up there with a select few major vendors defining the product requirements and architectures that will allow operators to streamline radio access networks.”
The vendor unveiled four of the latest products in its SingleRAN portfolio last week: a multi-mode controller for GSM and UMTS networks; two software-defined radio (SDR) remote radio units -- one that supports GSM and UMTS, and another that supports GSM, UMTS, and LTE; and its first commercial LTE base station product for 700 MHz and 2.6 GHz. (See Huawei Adds to SingleRAN.)
— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung