Huawei CEO: ‘Mobile phones are only one part of the device category’

10 Feb 2021

Ren Zhengfei. Image: Huawei

The founder of the Chinese tech company said Huawei may transfer its 5G technologies to other devices in the future.

Huawei’s CEO, Ren Zhengfei said that when it comes to 5G applications, mobile phones are not the only devices.

“Everything that connects people or things are devices. That includes things like laser radar, ultrasonic radar, and Doppler radar for self-driving vehicles, as well as household gas meters, water meters, TVs, and security systems,” he said.

“Mobile phones are only one part of the device category. So, Huawei may transfer our 5G technologies to others in the future but will never sell our device business.”

Ren was speaking at the opening ceremony of a new intelligent mining innovation lab in Taiyuan, the capital of the Chinese province of Shanxi. This lab is focused on bringing 5G technology to the mining industry.

Ren said the establishment of this lab is not a move to expand Huawei’s core business, but rather using its 5G technology to provide services for other industries.

“Huawei will never pursue diversification. We are just offering a platform, providing soil where all kinds of crops can grow. The platform we provide for the coal industry is essentially the same as the one we provide for the telecommunications and transportation industries,” he said.

“Shanxi is doing a good job in coal mining, with the vast majority of its mines already using mechanical equipment. There are even a few automated mines already. Applying ICT will help them achieve intelligent mining. For example, there are already devices to effectively prevent gas explosions in Shanxi’s mines, but they need four cables in total: two power cables and two signal cables. Combined with our technology, gas detectors don’t need any cables anymore. They can transmit data using a wireless network,” he said.

“If we can provide excellent services for coal mines, just like Microsoft is providing information services to support aircraft engines, we will have created an outstanding service module. Microsoft is not going to start making aircraft engines, and we are not going to start mining.”

US relations

While Huawei’s relationship with the US has been notably turbulent in recent years, Ren said he hopes the new US administration will come up with more open policies.

“As a business, we don’t have the energy to get involved in a political whirlpool. Our heads are buried in making our own products,” he said.

“Allowing US companies to supply goods to Chinese customers is conducive to their own financial performance. If Huawei’s production capacity expanded, that would mean US companies could sell more. It’s a win-win situation. I believe the new administration will weigh and balance these interests as they consider their policies.”

Last year, US trade restrictions were placed on chip manufacturers to stop them selling US tech to Huawei. According to Nikkei Asian Review in September 2020, the Chinese company was in “survival mode” as it worked to stockpile chips before suppliers were no longer able to deliver components.

However, Ren said Huawei can survive without relying on phone sales. “Our shipments of high-end phones have declined because of lack of chip supply. But we support the progress made by Apple’s iPhone 12,” he said.

“Many high-end device users in Europe use iPhones, and the way those phones operate on our networks in Europe actually is a sign we are also doing well.

“The fact high-end users can use the iPhone 12 to its fullest effect on our 5G networks in Europe is a testament to the quality of our networks. This is helping balance opinions towards Huawei in Europe.”

Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic