Updated: Aug 3
I visited Huawei's massive Dongguan Research and Development Centre and MWC Shanghai recently to hear how the firm is responding to the US-China tech war, as part of my ongoing research into the Huawei issue.
Huawei's massive European-inspired R&D hub in Dongguan
Huawei and other leading Chinese tech firms have a problem. The United States has a chokehold on advanced semiconductor technology developed with US patents and is wielding the full force of economic sanctions and geopolitical influence to prevent such technology reaching China. I visited Shenzhen’s Dongguan Research and Development Centre and MWC Shanghai recently to hear how Huawei is responding, as part of my ongoing research into the Huawei issue.
Just as the US controls advanced semiconductor supply chains, Huawei holds most of the world’s patents for 5G technology and it is busy seeking licence fees from all the other telecommunications companies that use its knowledge. Its international mobile phone business been impaired as a result of the US sanctions, but Huawei remains a leading provider of equipment and services to 5G networks (and their predecessors) around the world.
Interestingly, Huawei appears to be getting around the sanctions on advanced semiconductors by relying less on local computing power and shifting its focus to cloud services. These services are important to the future of digital transformation across all industries. Huawei is able to take advantage of its strengths in data centres, AI and other fields to offer its industry customers comprehensive cloud services as industries digitalize.
Huawei used MWC this year to demonstrate its resilience and continued innovation from its massive research and development operations. New developments at Huawei Cloud empowering smart cities and green solutions for digital industry innovation were unveiled at MWC Shanghai. MWC is Asia’s largest annual convention for mobile communication technologies, organised by the global telecoms industry group, GSMA.
It seems the company is fighting on and determined to maintain a leading role in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Presentations at MWC demonstrated how Huawei is deploying 5G (and developing 6G) for industries of the future, from intelligent vehicles and glasses-free 3D to intelligent hospitals, schools, factories and more. These are complex systems that will require interoperability and reliability amongst numerous partner firms, governments and organisations and, not least – as I have written previously – agreed rules, norms and standards.
These new operating systems for the intelligent future rely upon firms such as Huawei enabling new kinds of management too, as Sabrina Meng, Huawei’s Rotating Chair and CFO, told MWC Shanghai. She described management transformation as demanding a redefinition of the relationships between people, events, things and theory, a “more open, forward-looking management approach to address future challenges”. Indeed, the intelligent transformation that these new technologies will enable would appear to need a complete mind-shift in the way we collaborate and network and assess future risks and opportunities.
Meanwhile, Huawei Cloud researchers have developed a ground-breaking AI weather forecasting system, recently published in the world-famous scientific journal Nature. The new system is based on deep learning using 43 years of data and yields a 10,000x improvement in prediction speed over traditional weather forecasting.
Huawei might be banned in the US and some other US allies, but the company is worth watching. It isn’t giving up.