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Huawei: From underdog to behemoth

Posted: 17 Apr 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Huawei? smartphone manufacturers? SingleRAN? network standards? 3G networks?

In the short term, Huawei paid a price. Operators who hadn't expected Huawei to change so quickly complained. According to Yang, in 2011, Huawei's ODM business was serving 14 operatorsmany based in Europe. In contrast, in the first half of 2012, operatorsturned off by Huawei's sudden switch in strategyshunned Huawei. Only Vodafone Italy signed up to work with Huawei Device.

By the second half of 2012, however, Huawei's Ascend P1 (introduced at the Consumer Electronics that year) and Ascend D1 were beginning to make an impression on the industry.

Most industry observers initially predicted that Huawei's mobile handsets won't stand a chance. Most consumers had never heard of Huawei, andespecially in markets like Francepeople have high respect for brands. Yang, undeterred, started selling Ascend series phones online through Amazon. Huawei quickly became one of the top three brands and started to get operators' notice.

Yang proudly reported, "In the first half of 2013, we have more than 14 operators using Huawei's branded phones."

Top phone makers

Smartphone global shipment ranking.
Source: IDC

Today, Huawei Device contributes only 20 per cent of Huawei's revenue, three-quarters of revenue comes from Huawei's carrier business group. But, even though it's still a start-up, Huawei Device generated almost $8 billion revenue 2012 with projections of $9 billion this year. Thirty per cent of its handset business originates in China, with Europe and Japan at about 10 per cent each, according to Yang.

Wayne Lam, senior analyst at IHS iSuppli, said, "Huawei has been very aggressive building up their smartphone portfolio in the past few years. It still trails behind its compatriot ZTE but we predict that Huawei will overtake ZTE in the next few years in sheer handset volume and likely faster in smartphones due to their vertical integration of core silicon components."

HiSilicon and Huawei Device
So then, how's HiSiliconHuawei's chip division, founded in 2004working out?

Huawei's recent Ascend P2 was featured as the first production Cat4 LTE smartphone using HiSilicon's LTE base band, said IHS' Lam. "In many ways, Huawei is following Samsung's formula for growth by going vertical with their handset componentry and putting lots of marketing dollars promoting their brand."

However, HiSilicon-enabled smartphones are still very new for Huawei, Lam added.

Last year's Ascend D1 was announced with HiSilicon apps processor (1.4GHz quad-core K3V2 apps processor integrated with 16-core GPU) and base band. "But to date, no carrier has taken the Ascend D1 with the HiSilicon LTE base band yet," noted Lam. The Ascend P2 is Huawei's second attempt at promoting a complete HiSilicon apps processor/base band solution but it has yet to announce a carrier partner.

"Overall, the fate of their HiSilicon division is tied to the fortunes of Huawei's high-end smartphone Ascend line since they are introducing their home-grown apps processor at that smartphone trim level," said Lam. From Huawei's standpoint, though, Yang noted that having HiSilicon as its partner makes it easier for Huawei Device designers to communicate with chip designers. Noting that Huawei Device has a multiple-vendor strategy (they also use Qualcomm), Yang added that having HiSilicon also eases negotiations with other chip suppliers.

Asked about Huawei Devices' smartphone development strategy, Yang explained that Huawei is focused on beefing up its smartphone hardware in 2013 and 2014. "We see smartphones as a super tool kit," said Yang. The first order of business for Huawei is to make differentiating improvements in functions such as camera, MP3 and phone, he added.

Huawei's smartphone focus will shift more to software in 2015, he added.

- Junko Yoshida
??EE Times

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