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China tech

Huawei claims over 90 contracts for 5G, leading Ericsson

Chinese tech group to invest $20m in UK despite US pressure

A Huawei exhibit in Beijing. The Chinese telecom equipment maker has made inroads into Europe's 5G network market.   © Reuters

TAIPEI -- Huawei Technologies, the world's top telecom equipment maker, on Thursday said it had secured more than 90 commercial 5G contracts worldwide, an increase of nearly 30 from last year despite the relentless pressure from U.S. authorities.

Huawei's announcement is an apparent attempt to rebut Ericsson, the Chinese company's biggest rival, as the Swedish manufacturer last week said it leads 5G commercialization with 79 contracts as of the end of last year.

"We have 91 commercial 5G contracts worldwide, including 47 from Europe," Ryan Ding, president of Huawei's carrier business group, told a press conference in London on Tuesday. "One year ago, I said we are leading by 18 months ahead of our competitors in 5G technology. Now, we still maintain that leadership."

Huawei also said it would invest $20 million in 5G innovation projects in the next five years in the U.K., which recently defied U.S. objections to grant the Chinese company partial involvement in building the nation's 5G infrastructure.

Huawei has made inroads into European countries such as Hungary that welcome the Chinese company's involvement. Germany, meanwhile, has yet to decide whether to allow Huawei to build the country's communication infrastructure. The European Union last month stopped short of explicitly barring Huawei in guidelines for member states.

Huawei's announcement came as U.S. officials are split over whether to toughen rules on supplying American technology to Chinese companies. The Chinese manufacturer is also struggling with slow demand due to the deadly coronavirus outbreak at home, which has taken more than 2,000 lives worldwide and infected around 75,000 people.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday said in a series tweets and comments to reporters that national security threats -- a reason that U.S. authorities often cite to single out Huawei's products -- should not always be an "excuse" to ban American companies from selling products to foreign countries.

His tweets, which gave U.S.-made jet engines as an example, seemed to contradict his own administration's efforts to slow down Chinese development in 5G, aviation and other advanced technologies.

On the other hand, Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House of Representatives' speaker, warned a security conference in Europe on Feb. 15 that using Huawei's devices is like "putting state police" in consumers' pockets. State Department Secretary Mike Pompeo described Huawei along with other Beijing-backed companies as "Trojan horses for Chinese intelligence."

Washington has long warned Huawei poses national security risks and added the company to its so-called Entity List last May in an attempt to restrict the Chinese tech giant's access to American technologies. The U.S. has tried to persuade international allies to block the use of the Chinese company's products.

However, the U.K. last month decided to let Huawei play a role in 5G infrastructure, although not for "sensitive parts" in the network -- a move that is expected to have a symbolic meaning for other European countries weighing similar decisions.

Washington's blacklisting of Huawei so far has most hurt the company's smartphone business, which contributes more than 50% of its total revenue, as the denied access of Google's mobile service significantly drags Huawei's overseas smartphone sales.

As the world's No .2 smartphone maker, Huawei is slated to introduce the next generation of its foldable Mate X on Monday to compete head to head with bigger rival Samsung Electronics' recently unveiled Galaxy Z Flip.

Huawei in December warned 2020 will be a tougher year than 2019 and underperforming managers will face job cuts amid the headwinds.

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