Huawei to continue to work with consumers even if 5G banned in Canada: chairman

TORONTO — Huawei Technologies Inc. is adamant that it won’t abandon Canadian consumers, telecommunications companies and universities, even if the country’s government bans its 5G technology.

Speaking through a translator at a media roundtable Thursday, the technology giant’s chairman Liang Hua stressed that he believes there is a way for the business to forge ahead in the country, though he noted the relationship between Canada and the company’s home country China is “not ideal.”

“If Huawei were to be excluded from the deployment of 5G in the country then there are still customers that will choose us. In that case, we will also continue to provide services to those customers that have chosen us,” he said.

“At the end of the day, we hope the decisions on 5G can be based on technology, instead of other factors. We want it to be a level playing field.”

Liang’s comments and his visit come as Huawei is encountering intense scrutiny in the wake of the December arrest of its chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou at the behest of the United States, which seeks to extradite her over accusations of fraud and violating international sanctions against Iran.

Huawei has already faced restrictions on its technology from three of Canada’s Five Eyes intelligence allies — the U.S., Australia and New Zealand — and telecommunications partners, including Telus Corp., have said if Huawei is banned their 5G wireless networks could be delayed and more expensive.

Huawei has primarily been working with Telus and Bell in Canada on wireless technology, but also makes smartphones for Rogers and Videotron under their main brands, as well as some secondary brands such as Virgin Mobile, Fido and Koodo.

The company — with a Canadian headquarters in Markham, Ont. and research facilities in Ottawa, Markham, Waterloo, Ont., Montreal, Vancouver and Edmonton — has also committed money to collaborations with the University of Toronto, University of British Columbia, McGill University and the University of Waterloo.

Liang insisted the recent scandal hasn’t damaged such relations or the company’s respectability, adding that is “not realistic” for Huawei to expect to serve every market, though it does have 30 5G contracts around the world.

“I don’t think there is a negative impact on the company’s reputation, but rather I think they just gave us a round of free advertisement around the world,” he said.

“In the short-term, if there were some political influence (or) some political factors in play, it might have an impact on our scale of investments, but in the long run, we still believe it is all down to the technologies.”

Liang announced that Huawei would be adding 200 jobs to the Canadian market and increasing its research and development investments in Canada by 15 per cent in 2019, following a $180 million of investment it made in Canada in 2018.

He also said the company was committed to ensuring all intellectual property generated with Canadian institutions Huawei partners with is kept within the country in arrangements that benefit both the organizations and Huawei. It employs 1,100 workers in the country, including 700 focused on research and development.

He insisted that wouldn’t change based on whether a ban is implemented and denied that the announcements were made in an effort to influence the forthcoming decision.

Liang skirted questions about precisely how damaging a ban could be for the company and wouldn’t say what he felt China and Canada could do to repair their relations.

He did, however, open up about Meng’s recent troubles.

“I believe she is innocent and I hope the Canadian legal system can bring justice back to her and hope that she can be freed and reunite with her family soon, but I am not a lawyer, so I can’t comment on the substance of the case,” he said.

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