Cutting Room: Huawei? Who are you?


Eyebrows were raised when Data Select sent out its itinerary for its seventh Platinum Club dealer event, with Huawei among the presenting manufacturers

Well known among network operator CTOs, and their trade press, but not so familiar to reseller businesses working directly with end users. Huawei? Who-are-we? Good question.

But of all the presentations, Huawei generated most interest and dominated  conversation throughout the day. The feeling was a ‘’game changer” in the handset market might have emerged.

Of course, as the infrastructure boys will tell you, Huawei has been in the game for two decades already – building the networks that carry the signal, and working with 45 of the world’s leading operators.

It is in fact a monster in its own right – $13 billion from this market in total, across all its interests. Twice the revenue of Sony Ericsson, say.

Time will tell if the Chinese manufacturer is able to live up to its ambitions, and also those it raised among the 60 or so dealers in Marlow this month. But one suspects it is a firm for which failure is simply not an option. I think Data Select has pulled off an epic deal, here.

Huawei is seemingly obsessed with innovation and market understanding. It has so far hired 6,000 staff globally, placing 40 per cent on them purely in research and development.

It asked for feedback on what dealers and their customers want from a device, and indicated the turnaround times for production of any such ‘dealer’ phone would be minimal. It’s a slick manufacturing operation.

And can you imagine a dealer thinking to ask any other manufacturer brand to put a such-and-such on a phone for UK SMEs, for instance? Let alone have the vendor come to them.

Clearly, Huawei’s plan, like country rival ZTE’s (a Samsung/LG kind of rivalry), is to ape Taiwanese firm HTC and eventually go out under its own steam with Android, having made a name as an ODM vendor.

It has the ability to load on to a handset equivalent features to any tier-one manufacturer: good camera, Wi-Fi, GPS and so on. It also has access to Google’s Android system, which for a while has lifted HTC up, and positively resurrected the likes of Motorola.

Sony Ericsson has already come to it too late, as the Android market has its leading exponents and is about to be commodotised by the likes of Huawei.

What differentiates products by these brands now? Motoblur? HTC Sense? Sony Ericsson Timescape? Give over. Huawei will be offering something very similar by the end of the year for £100, and the operators will love it as a result – smarter phones in the hands of more people, using more (but limited) data.

If I were Sony Ericsson, or Motorola, or LG, I would be very afraid of Huawei indeed.