As trade tensions flare up unabated between the US and China, when it comes to 5G technology many Southeast Asian countries have disregarded Washington’s ban on Chinese telecommunications equipment, writes Kyodo News.
The region’s response to the US administration’s crackdown on Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies Co. has varied depending on a host of factors, such as economic development levels, goals regarding next-generation 5G networks, and existing political relations with Washington and Beijing.
"It has to be acknowledged that Huawei is a very established telecommunications player with strong brand equity and substantial ties to the Southeast Asia region", said Mansur Khamitov, an assistant professor at the Nanyang Business School, part of Singapore's state-run Nanyang Technological University.
The expert cites the fact that Huawei has in recent years forged close business ties with many countries in Southeast Asia.
"When a dominant company like this which has grown into a technology giant attempts to penetrate a certain market, it is typically very hard for key business, government, and consumer stakeholders to resist such efforts, particularly if we talk about developing countries", he claimed. "This is likely what's happening with several Southeast Asian countries still choosing Huawei in spite of the US warning of cybersecurity concerns and staying away from Huawei".
Thus, the Philippines' Globe Telecom Inc. used Huawei's equipment to launch Southeast Asia's first commercial 5G fixed wireless internet service in the country last month, offering high-speed home broadband to households.
The company’s ties with Huawei date back to 2011 and a partner deal to implement a $700 million network modernisation programme, while in 2015 Globe signed a five-year contract with the Chinese firm to design a wireless broadband network.
Another regional player, Malaysia, appointed Huawei as an adviser to the government in developing the info-communication technology (ICT) sector.
In Singapore, at the recent Interpol conference on 2 - 4 July, the Huawei booth promoting technology for safe cities drew Southeast Asian delegations like a magnet.
"Right now globally Huawei has the most advanced 5G equipment, being 12 months ahead, followed by Ericsson", said a Singapore official familiar with Singapore's 5G plans, but who declined to be identified.
Huawei officials have stated that among countries with commercially launched 5G networks, two-thirds used Huawei to help develop their systems.
At the end of this June, Huawei landed 50 5G commercial contracts, shipping more than 150,000 base stations to countries including South Korea, Switzerland, the UK, Finland and more, said president of Huawei’s carrier business group Ryan Ding on 25 June at an industry conference.
On Saturday, Reuters reported citing sources familiar with the case that the US Commerce Department is ready to extend its waiver for Huawei for another 90 days, allowing the Chinese company to purchase technology from American companies, thus renewing an agreement that was set to expire on 19 August. The department explained it sought to minimize problems for customers, many of whom operate networks in rural US regions.
The US Commerce Department blacklisted Huawei and about 70 of its affiliates from purchasing American technology and doing business with US companies in May amid a raging trade war between Washington and Beijing, and has since been urging other countries to steer clear of the Chinese company’s equipment for future 5G networks.
Washington has long accused Huawei of spying for Beijing – allegations both the Chinese government and the tech firm have repeatedly denied.
The US sanctions against the Asian tech titan come amid a trade dispute between Washington and Beijing, with the countries exchanging several rounds of trade tariffs.
Earlier this month, US President Donald Trump said that he planned to move forward with new 10 percent tariffs on another $300 billion in Chinese goods imported into the United States, effectively placing a tax on all Chinese exports to the US.