The world’s second largest telecommunications service provider, Huawei, has set its sights on rattling the consumer goods market – starting off with smartphones.
Huawei (pronounced “Who-Are-Whey”), best known as an ICT infrastructure service provider to large telecoms firms across the globe, is no stranger to producing consumer devices such as tablets, cell phones and 3G modems. But with the imminent launch of its Huawei Ascend P1 cell phone in South Africa, the company says it has hopes of being one of the market leaders in the smartphone segment by 2015.
“We are really ambitious about our smartphone and mobile device offering. We have already launched a quad-core phone – these are among the fastest phones in the world,” said Roland Sladek, Vice President for International Media Affairs at Huawei during a recent media visit to the company’s head quarters in Shenzhen, China.
The Ascend P1 is expected to compete with Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy S series. The recommended retail price is R5 499 and it becomes available at the end of this week through Vodacom outlets. MTN is expected to launch the handset thereafter.
The company has set a sales target of 20 million of these devices to be sold worldwide this year.
The company also produces its own MediaPad tablets to further penetrate the consumer market. However, no indication has been given as to when these devices will be available on the local market.
Who is “who-are-whey”
When describing the company’s activities, Sladek said it is “very likely part of one third of the global population’s life.”
Many South Africans may not have heard of the company even though they make use of its technology daily.
Locally, generic Huawei cell phones are sold under different brand names, especially those of service providers such as Vodacom and 8-ta. Huawei also dominates the mobile broadband market as it not only provides service operators with the network infrastructure they need, but also produces and develops USB modems.
The company boasts lavish headquarters in Shenzhen which could be described as its own little village. With close on 40 000 people who work on the campus, ranging from research and development to staff training, the facilities include housing, health care facilities, a gym and even prayer rooms for Islamic staff.
Its on-campus factory operates automatically, with routine maintenance being the only reason for human intervention.
It’s been reported that the company invested 20bn yuan (approximately R25bn) to upgrade the campus which is said to have a 16 kilometres radius.
Despite the company’s past successes, it has come under scrutiny regarding some of its development practices. It has faced countless lawsuits from competitors such as Cisco, who in 2003 alleged that the Chinese firm infringed some of the company’s copyrights. US lawmakers and the European Commission has have also raised concern at the alleged subsidies that the company received from the Chinese government.
With the help of the People’s Liberation Party, the firm’s rivals say it has a competitive advantage over many Western companies as well as fellow local Chinese firm, ZTE.
In response to queries regarding the allegations, Sladek said Huawei “respects its competitors and opts to focus on challenging them with our innovation and development.”
He added that ultimately the company is working on becoming one of the global innovation leaders to have developed good solutions and keep its leadership in networks.
*This journalist’s visit to Huawei’s head quarters in Shenzhen, China, was paid for by the company reported on.