Ren Zhengfei, the founder and chief executive of Chinese telecommunications equipment giant Huawei Technologies, said he wants to license his company’s 5G technology to an American company to create a powerful new competitor that could develop its own large scale market.

In a meeting with media at Huawei’s headquarters in Shenzhen on Thursday, Ren revealed that the purpose of sharing its technology in this way was to get Huawei and the US company to the same starting line to compete in 5G networks, adding that he was “confident that we are also going to win” in the ensuing competition.

“We are not worried about the emergence of a strong competitor,” said Ren. “I will be very happy if it [the competitor] can really challenge Huawei, helping us to become more efficient and eliminating underperforming areas of business and staff at Huawei.”

Ren Zhengfei, the founder and chief executive of Huawei. (Picture: Hector Retamal/AFP)

Privately-owned Huawei, which was added to Washington’s Entity List in May, preventing it from purchasing US products and services, has stepped up strategic investments and added thousands of researchers in a bid to counter the US ban, Ren said in an interview with The Economist on September 10.

In that interview Ren revealed that Huawei was ready to share its 5G technology with potential western buyers in exchange for access to their markets. Further, the company would allow customers to modify the source code so that neither Huawei or the Chinese government could have any control over any telecoms infrastructure built using its equipment.

Despite the US ban, Huawei has made significant headway in global 5G network construction and has bagged as many as 60 commercial 5G deals to date, according to company rotating chairman Ken Hu Houkun in a press conference in Shanghai this month.

On Thursday, Ren said he only wants to sell Huawei’s 5G technology to an American company. “Europe has its own 5G technology, and South Korea and Japan also have their own things, allowing the firm to test their own technology to strength and adjust it,” said Ren. “We should consider American companies and let them compete with us from all over the world.”

Separately, Huawei is still mulling whether to use its in-house Harmony operating system for terminal products like smartphones. Because of the Entity List ban, Huawei is prohibited from using Google Mobile Services in its new smartphones.

Huawei has decided to delay sales of its newly launched Mate 30 smartphone series in Europe, the company’s biggest market outside China, because the handsets have no access to Google apps and services under the US trade ban.

The Shenzhen-based company will promote its own Huawei Mobile Services (HMS) ecosystem, in lieu of Google’s own system, to support users of the Mate 30 series and the foldable Mate X, another 5G smartphone that will be released in China next month. It has also earmarked US$1 billion to provide incentives for HMS app developers.

“Google is a friendly company. If the United States continues to ban us from using Google's Google Mobile Services, we may have to make some efforts ourselves,” Ren said.

“The biggest topic of the future is artificial intelligence,” he said. “I hope that we will not encounter a second entity list for AI technology, although this is unlikely to happen given that AI is mostly involved in software design.”

Ren also said Huawei will not see much change in its revenue next year but growth would resume in 2021, adding that the company will ship 600,000 base stations this year and 1.5 million in 2020.

On Tuesday, a US House panel unveiled bipartisan legislation to fund US$1 billion for small and rural telecoms network operators to remove equipment bought from Chinese companies including Huawei and ZTE Corp, citing concerns over national security risks.

The bill could protect the country’s telecoms networks from foreign adversaries by helping small and rural wireless providers root-out suspect equipment and replace it with more secure gear, according to the joint statement from the top Democrats and Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

In July, the US Senate Commerce Committee proposed a similar plan that authorizes about US$700 million to remove Huawei equipment from local carriers’ telecoms infrastructure in a bid to boost the security of the wireless network’s supply chain.