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Can US Market Barriers Come Down? Bill Owens Hopes So

Bill Owens, an industry veteran who brings military and political perspectives to the technology table, is impressed with the innovation in today's communications networking industry, particularly related to virtualization. But, as he noted during a keynote speech at the recent Big Communications Event (BCE) in Austin, Texas, he believes more can be done to deliver value to the US market if barriers to entry were lowered.

Owens, the non-executive chairman at US operator CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL), chairman of Red Bison Advisory Group and once the CEO of Nortel, believes the US market could be enriched further if it fully embraced international expertise. "I want to stress the importance of the international world," he noted, citing Huawei as an example of a company that plays a key role in communications network strategies in most parts of the world but "we hardly know them in the US."

I took that to mean (before the shouting begins) that Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. is not well known as a partner and supplier in the US, for reasons that are well documented. (See US vs Huawei/ZTE: The Verdict and China Lashes Out at 'Cold War Mentality'.)

Indeed, only days after Owens suggested that companies such as Huawei should be welcomed with open arms, the Chinese vendor was once again in the headlines. (See US Probe Into Huawei Threatens Trade War.)

But it's not just about China: Owens pointed out how Indian companies such as Wipro Ltd. (NYSE: WIT) (where Owens sits on the board), Infosys Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: INFY) and Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. are "fonts of IT knowledge that bring great value to us in the US."

Bill Owens believes in an international innovation melting pot that everyone's able to dip into.
Bill Owens believes in an international innovation melting pot that everyone's able to dip into.

Innovations from outside the US should be embraced to help companies such as CenturyLink reach their potential, the former Cold War commander suggested. "I urge us all to see [this] as a world of very smart people who are engaging … some of the most important innovations come from those [international] companies … how can we bring these great companies into our country? To welcome them, not to put up the barriers, not to preclude them … but to integrate the knowledge of companies to make a difference."

Owens believes such open access fosters partnerships and that collaboration is the best way to encourage further technology innovation that, in turn, can help CenturyLink develop a broader range of services for its enterprise customers. The operator, which generates the majority of its revenues from business customers -- $10.65 billion in 2015, about 60% of its total revenues -- is "focused on how to provide the best solutions to businesses … how do we integrate all of the wonders of your companies to create new solutions?" he asked the audience. "It's important for us to figure out how to partner, enormously important."

Given the current state of the relationship between the US authorities and, in particular, the two main Chinese vendors, I'm not sure that many barriers are going to be lowered any time soon. And, of course, this is a two-way street -- the opportunities to participate and collaborate around the world should be open to all. (See ZTE CEO to Quit in US Export-Ban Dispute.)

And who knows, maybe, as has been suggested on Light Reading before, political change and pressure from the operator community could herald a thaw in certain relations. Owens will be hoping so. (See Curing America's China Syndrome and Are Huawei & ZTE About to Feel a Thaw in the Comms Cold War?.)

If you want to hear everything Owens had to say about collaboration, open markets and the impact that innovation is having on US tech job prospects, check out his full keynote:

— Ray Le Maistre, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

Doofensmirch 6/14/2016 | 12:20:07 AM
Barriers to more cash? Problem for Bill is he's in the pocket of Chairman Ren Zhengfei at Huawei so hardly a neutral voice on the subject.
TV Monitor 6/11/2016 | 7:01:20 PM
Re: Just a matter of when.. winddkny

"Sooner or later, Huawei will start selling into the US."

Huawei/ZTE selling in the US is a matter of If, not When. There really is a possibility that Huawei/ZTE will still be banned in the US 100 years from now.

The Feds are super uptight about Huawei/ZTE not in the US, but elsewhere.

For example, Pentagon demands that foreign hosting nations of US troops prohibit their wireless carriers from deploying Huawei/ZTE equipment around US military bases.

So LG U+, the Korean wireless carrier whose primary vendor is Huawei due to cost and political reason, was forced to use Ericsson for a separate LTE network around the US bases at double the cost of Huawei. Additionally, the US Forces Korea told its troops to not use LG U+ for their cellphone services because of Huawei fears. This wasn't an issue with LG U+'s bigger rivals whose primary vendor was Samsung.

Even Softbank, whose primary vendors are Chinese and has selected Chinese TD-LTE+ as its 5G format, are looking for non-Chinese vendors to supply them with TD-LTE+ network equipment that it intends to deploy in its Sprint 2.5 Ghz spectrum holdings, because Softbank knows it is impossible to deploy mass deploy Huawei/ZTE equipment in the US.
TV Monitor 6/11/2016 | 6:46:18 PM
Re: If all the Tier 1s pressed hard.... [email protected]

"If all the Tier 1s pressed hard to have Huawei and ZTE competing in the US infrastructure market, could they influence the authorities?"

No, national security comes first to the Feds.

No Huawei or ZTE in the US.
winddkny 6/11/2016 | 12:21:28 AM
Just a matter of when.. Sooner or later, Huawei will start selling into the US. They will have (or have already) become too big to be ignored. Once this happens, i predict a merger of Nokia and Ericsson to create a big vendor competing with Huawei globally, with two vendors dominating the market. 

It could easily have been Huawei and ZTE being the two dominant vendors. But for Huawei's remarkable rivalry with their Chinese counterpart that has kept ZTE in check. Now that Huawei has acquired global scale, it will be good for it to shore up ZTE globally and complete Chinese domination in the telco vendor market. 
mendyk 6/10/2016 | 2:46:04 PM
Re: If all the Tier 1s pressed hard.... I also wonder about the role that aggressive patent litigation has in the "international world."
brooks7 6/10/2016 | 2:21:08 PM
Re: If all the Tier 1s pressed hard.... Can we have Huawei and ZTE pressure the Chinese Government to lower trade barriers and float the Chinese Currency?


[email protected] 6/10/2016 | 1:18:18 PM
If all the Tier 1s pressed hard.... If all the Tier 1s pressed hard to have Huawei and ZTE competing in the US infrastructure market, could they influence the authorities? 

Or is the 'security threat' story just too big??
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