For fear of the Covid-19 pandemic, the major telephone groups, including the Korean Samsung, participated only virtually in the sector’s annual high mass, which closed in early July in the capital of Catalonia.
“Huawei’s physical presence underlines the importance of Europe and the global telecoms sector more broadly in the group’s strategy,” explains Thomas Husson, analyst at Forrester.
In this Salon with a format very lightened by the sanitary situation, Huawei had one of the largest stands, topped with the slogan “Lighting Up the Future” (Illuminate the future).
Suspected by the former Trump administration of espionage, Huawei was blacklisted in 2019 by Washington, which prevents the Chinese group from accessing American technologies for its products, including the Android operating system, which is owned by from Google and used by almost all smartphone manufacturers other than Apple, but also components for its network equipment or smartphones.
Consequence: while Huawei had succeeded in becoming one of the biggest global sellers of smartphones with Samsung and Apple, even briefly occupying the place of world number one, the Chinese group was ejected from the podium.
At the end of 2020, Huawei was only the sixth largest manufacturer in the world in terms of sales, and in the first quarter of 2021, its sales in China had fallen by 50% over one year, according to the firm Canalys.
“Outside of China, Europe has been the most important region for Huawei for six or seven years,” recalls Ryan Reith, analyst at IDC. “They were able to sell premium phones there, on which they made more profit. Europe remains a key market for this and Huawei will not turn away from it, ”he said. To be absent from the biggest European mobile telephony event “would be like saying ‘we’re done’,” says Reith.
Priority to 5G
Especially since Huawei has just launched its HarmonyOS operating system, in order to compete with Android (Google) and iOS (Apple), which currently monopolize the market. The Chinese manufacturer “must convince telephone equipment manufacturers to include its software in different regions of the world”, hence the interest of physical meetings in Barcelona, specifies Mr. Husson.
As every year, entry to Huawei’s stand was only by invitation, a sign that the group had carefully selected the companies to meet and cared little for the general public, to whom no new phone was presented, unlike in previous years.
The Chinese firm wants above all to strengthen its primary activity, that of telecom network infrastructures, essential for the future super-fast 5G internet.
In fact, “Huawei’s branch was that of the infrastructure provider. It is crucial for Huawei to network with as many international telecom operators as possible, in order to allay its fear of a ban on its equipment by certain governments ”, underlines Sashan Segan, of PC Mag.
Strongly encouraged by Washington, the United Kingdom and Australia have decided to exclude Huawei from their 5G market. In the European Union, Sweden has done the same, and several other countries, including France, are seeking to reduce the group’s place in their mobile networks.
Moreover, the boss of the network branch Ryan Ding praised in Barcelona the quality of Huawei equipment and the opportunities offered. “I will explain to you how we maintained the robustness of the network during the pandemic”, he explained to an audience of specialists. “In countries that are developing 5G faster, telecom operators are seeing their revenues grow faster and these countries have better digital infrastructure,” Ding added.
He also gave the example of efficiency and productivity gains achieved in certain Chinese industries, such as mining and steel, where some workers are starting to be able to work remotely thanks to 5G.
For fear of the Covid-19 pandemic, the major telephone groups, including the Korean Samsung, participated only virtually in the sector’s annual high mass, which closed in early July in the capital of Catalonia. “Huawei’s physical presence underlines the importance of Europe and more broadly of the global telecoms sector in the …