Shenzhen (dpa) - On a Friday afternoon in June, a group of Huawei employees cross a replica of the Old Bridge of Heidelberg on the way to a cafeteria near a fake Versailles castle.
On the 120-hectare site of the new corporate campus in the mountains off the city of Shenzhen in southeastern China, there are replicas of buildings from twelve European cities. They show how much company founder Ren Zhengfei values Europe's culture.
But now the world's largest network equipment supplier on the old continent is facing a special challenge. In the midst of its trade war with the US, the Chinese company in Europe is applying for contracts to build the 5G network.
Washington accuses Huawei of helping the government in Beijing to spy on other countries. The US is putting pressure on its European allies to stop cooperating with the Chinese company. So far they have only limited success. Huawei and Beijing reject the allegations.
When it comes to building the right 5G infrastructure company, European governments and telecoms companies cautiously weigh their options. Your decision can have a significant economic impact. 5G technology is up to 100 times faster than 4G. Among other things, it is intended to create super-fast connections for digitized factories, driverless cars and smart household appliances.
"The leading 5G company will earn hundreds of billions of dollars over the next ten years. Add to that many new jobs across the wireless technology sector, "said a US Department of Defense expert report.
Huawei had the largest market share among network equipment suppliers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa at 40 percent last year, followed by the Swedish company Ericsson with 36, China's ZTE with 11 and Nokia from Finland with 10 percent. But in May, the company suffered a setback when Washington put Huawei on a blacklist of companies that US companies are only allowed to trade under special conditions.
In June, Ren reduced Huawei's revenue forecast by $ 30 billion over the next two years. In the first half of the year, sales of the group still grew significantly. However, Huawei did not provide specific figures on how the business has already suffered from the US santions in presenting the figures this week. There are still many holes to fill, said chief executive Liang Hua. The company wants to invest massively for this.
For his business partners in Europe, Huawei can do little more than rely on the trust bonus of the past 15 years and to provide more transparency, it says in the company. To this end, Huawei has set up cybersecurity centers in places such as Brussels, Bonn or Banbury, UK, where governments can test its products.
"I have been working for this company for 20 years and I would say that this is the worst and most difficult time for Huawei," says Vincent Peng, Managing Director Western Europe. The mood of the staff is still good.
A committee of the British Parliament has recently concluded that there are no technical reasons for banning Huawei. However, operators were told to keep Huawei away from the "core" of their networks for security reasons. For example, some mobile operators in the UK have already begun upgrading their 5G services with Huawei accessories.
Huawei also has 5G contracts in Italy, Monaco, Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands and other European countries, where it has confidentiality agreements, according to its spokesman Joe Kelly. In total, the company has more than 50 5G contracts worldwide, 28 of them in Europe.
Countries like Germany are still unsure whether they want to entrust their mobile networks to Huawei. Unlike Australia, New Zealand or Japan, however, no European state has issued a ban at the request of the United States. "(European) countries do not like being dictated to what they should do when it negatively impacts the quality of their technical infrastructure," says strategy professor Michael Jacobides of the London Business School.
According to German experts, Huawei is about two years ahead of the competition in 5G technology. The company's managers attribute this to billions of R & D investment in recent years. Meanwhile, the US accuses Huawei of stealing business secrets from competitors like T-Mobile.
Should the US campaign against Huawei succeed, it could lead to an "iron technology curtain" with different standards between East and West, experts warn. Meanwhile, in the midst of all the excitement, European countries are struggling to find a balance. The Europeans wanted to keep the political door open, says Marcus Gloger, a partner in the consulting firm Strategy & in Germany. In this country nobody wanted a "division of the world into a western and an eastern hemisphere."
5G Report for the Department of Defense (English)