Secrecy and security: Huawei is the company that has the world worried

 

You may not have heard of Huawei, but its products may well be in your house. Last year the company, based in Shenzen, China, overtook Ericsson to become the world’s largest manufacturer of telecoms equipment. It controls a quarter of the EU market in telecoms infrastructure and has won more than half of the contracts for 4G technology awarded in Europe, including big deals with EE (formerly Orange and T-Mobile), O2 and 3UK.

It turns over more than $32bn, employs 140,000 people and has customers in 140 countries. Last year it muscled its way to third place in the smartphone market, behind Samsung and Apple. Many people believe it is also being used by the Chinese government to spy on the rest of the world.

Huawei has been forced to deny repeated allegations that the equipment it makes – from internet cables to smartphones – contains “digital back doors” that could be used to snoop on commercial and government data.

Huawei’s presence remains relatively small in the US, where some claim it forms part of a concerted espionage campaign by the Chinese government. Many of those fears stem from the company’s culture of secrecy, and indeed it was only a few days ago that chairman Ren Zhengfei, who founded Huawei 26 years ago, gave his first interview. “Huawei has no connection to the cyber-security issues the US has encountered,” he told reporters in New Zealand. “Huawei equipment is almost non-existent in networks running in the US. We have never sold any key equipment to major US carriers, nor have we sold any equipment to any US government agency.”

In China, Mr Ren is seen as a star of the new entrepreneurial class, building the company without many of the party connections enjoyed by other major firms.

But his past as an engineer in the People’s Liberation Army does little to settle US nerves.

A report last October by the House Intelligence Committee in Washington advised American companies to avoid buying from Huawei and another Chinese telecoms firm, ZTE. The US is not alone. Australia blocked Huawei from bidding on the contract for its national broadband network in March 2012, while both Canada and India have raised concerns.

A Huawei representative described the House Intelligence Committee report as “little more than an exercise in China-bashing, protectionism, and an egregious example of libel”.

Tim Stevens, a cyber-security expert with the Centre for Science and Security Studies at King’s College, London, says suspicion is warranted, but warned that it also serves US interests to depict Chinese companies as a threat. “If Huawei has been installing chips that communicate back to China, that is a major breach of national sovereignty,” he said. “But we simply don’t know the extent to which it is true. It is very difficult to say where the private company ends and the government begins.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Content, SEO and PPC Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral