Beijing (AFP)

At the top despite the pressures: Huawei became the world's leading seller of smartphones in the second quarter, when the Chinese group is fighting against Washington to deploy its 5G technology worldwide.

The telecoms giant finds itself at the center of the Sino-American rivalry, amid a trade and technology war and suspicions of espionage.

Huawei is considered to be the world leader in 5G, a new standard of mobile technologies set to revolutionize the Internet and whose deployment must accelerate.

Suspecting the group of collusion with Beijing and arguing risks in terms of cybersecurity, Washington has increased the pressure on its allies in recent months to ban Huawei equipment.

In this context, the company from Shenzhen (southern China) nonetheless dethroned the South Korean Samsung to become the world's leading seller of smartphones in the second quarter, according to data compiled by the research firm Canalys.

Paradoxically, the novel coronavirus pandemic has helped Huawei, further penalizing its main competitor.

Between April and June, the Chinese group sold 55.8 million phones (-5% over one year) against 53.7 million for Samsung (-30%).

"This is a remarkable result that few people would have predicted a year ago," said Ben Stanton, analyst at Canalys, seeing the effect of Covid-19.

Huawei praised an "exceptional resilience in these difficult times".

With less than 1% market share in China, Samsung was unable to take advantage of the recovery of the Asian giant, where a multitude of local competitors are present.

- Suspicions and opaque culture -

In the viewfinder for a year and a half of the Trump administration, Huawei is on the American blacklist, to prevent it from acquiring "made in USA" technologies essential to its phones.

Deprived of Google's Android operating system, Huawei is forced to accelerate the development of its own system, HarmonyOS, unveiled last year.

As for chips, Huawei is increasing its efforts to have them produced by its subsidiary HiSilicon.

And Huawei has been facing increasing pressure on the 5G front in recent times.

The military past of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, his membership of the Chinese Communist Party and an opaque corporate culture have fueled suspicions about the regime's influence on the group.

Washington insists that Chinese intelligence services could use Huawei equipment to monitor a country's communications and data traffic.

If Huawei denies it, the American argument is starting to be heard.

In the name of security, the United Kingdom announced in mid-July its decision to eventually expunge its 5G network of all equipment produced by Huawei.

Australia and Japan have chosen to ban Huawei on their soil. Singapore only grants it a secondary role for its future 5G network, preferring OEMs Nokia and Ericsson.

In France, Huawei will not be subject to a total ban. But operators already using the brand will have time-limited operating permits.

In this context of growing mistrust, it will be "difficult" for Huawei to remain number one in the smartphone market, said another Canalys analyst, Mo Jia.

According to him, certain crucial markets, notably Europe, could favor other brands to "reduce the risks".

© 2020 AFP