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Huawei sees more scope for autonomous vehicles in the Middle East as 5G rolls out

April 12, 2021

The company is already working with global auto makers, including Audi, Volkswagen and Baic Group

Chinese telecoms manufacturer Huawei aims to capitalise on the fast-evolving electric and autonomous vehicle industry as the company diversifies its offerings through new business lines.

“With the wider roll-out of 5G connectivity in the region, we see huge scope in the area of electric and autonomous vehicles,” Charles Yang, Shenzhen-headquartered company’s Middle East president, told a media roundtable on Sunday.

“With very less latency rate compared with 4G, [a] 5G network will support more sensors, connected devices, reduce the vehicles’ reaction time, make them smarter, reduce the number of accidents and cut down emissions levels,” he added.

A 5G network promises an internet speed of up to 1.2 gigabits per second, which will gradually reach 10Gbps — more than 100 times faster than 4G.

Huawei is already working with various car makers globally, including German manufacturers Audi, Volkswagen and Chinese car producer Baic Group.

Last week, it unveiled an electric car with Chinese auto company Arcfox. The vehicle comes with a full suite of autonomous-driving features and will soon be launched commercially.

“We are already facilitating top car makers with our technologies and equipment to develop the future vehicle technology. Given the GCC governments’ push towards green energy, we see a lot of potential,” added Mr Yang.

The Covid-19 pandemic has increased the focus on making the car industry greener.

Global sales of EVs accelerated last year, rising 43 per cent to more than 3.2 million, according to Swedish data company

Ongoing US sanctions have hobbled Huawei’s smartphone business.

The company, which used to be among the top three smartphone manufacturers until the third quarter of last year, is now the sixth-biggest with an 8 per cent market share, according to Counterpoint Research.

Despite operational difficulties brought about by the coronavirus outbreak and US sanctions, Huawei aims for strong growth in its Middle East business in 2021.

“[The] Middle East region has continued to perform well despite external pressures … we expect the same growth momentum this year,” said Mr Yang, without disclosing Huawei's regional revenue or profit.

“[The] GCC region is leading the world in 5G deployment. We are expecting a strong uptick in our carrier business, which includes cloud industry and 5G networks, this year.”

In 2020, Huawei earned $27.7 billion from its sales in Europe, Middle East and Africa, almost 20.2 per cent of its global revenues.

The company's annual revenue grew 3.8 per cent to $136.7bn and net profit increased 3.2 per cent to $9.9bn.

US-led sanctions have created supply chain disruptions, said Mr Yang, but the company managed a smooth supply of its products using its own stocks of chips.

The company, which employs more than 197,000 people, has been engaged in a trade dispute with the US administration, which considers the company to be a national security threat. The telecoms company has repeatedly refuted claims that its products could be used for spying.

“We are working very closely with the governments of the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region. We regularly invite global cyber experts to discuss the issue of security,” said Mr Yang.

“But cyber security should not be a responsibility of one company … we are doing our part quite effectively and spending huge amounts to ensure the security of our products and services.”

The company, which has more than 1 billion connected devices and 730 million Huawei smartphone users worldwide, deals with more than 1,500 operators in over 170 countries.