Why Australia Misses Out On Huawei Products

Image: Tegan Jones/Gizmodo Australia

In addition to teasing its upcoming Mate 20 phone at IFA last week, Huawei also announced its first ever smart speaker — The Huawei AI Cube.

But much like the reportedly amazing Matebook X Pro, the Cube isn't coming to Australia. And neither are the new P20 colours.

So I decided to ask Huawei why we always miss out.

A spokesperson for the brand had this to say:

"As always its market size and timing... different penetration and all those kinds of things. But there's also lots of numbers and lots of figures that play into the field. In Australia we're not very well known so we start to focus on certain products and make sure that these really hit the consumer and are really what customers like before we go too mass and people don't really know what's going on.

He continued, "[We] keep the focus on certain things that we can do, and that's why certain things might take longer. I'm pretty sure that sooner or later you'll get everything."

From a business perspective, this makes sense. People who aren't overly interested in tech or realise just how many products Huawei make globally will even realise that Australia is missing out. So focusing on its strongest area is logical.

But it's also arguably a really bad time to be doing it.

This isn't because the company make bad phones. On the contrary, the P20 Pro still has, in my opinion, the best phone camera of 2018.

However, what is most unfortunate for Huawei is that a ban that has been placed on it by the government, stopping the company from supplying 5G technology to Australia. This is due to presumed security risks that vendors such as Huawei and ZTE would pose to the 5G network.

A recent press release from Senator Mitch Fifield and acting Minister for Home Affairs Scott Morrison stated:

"The Government considers that the involvement of vendors who are likely to be subject to extrajudicial directions from a foreign government that conflict with Australian law, may risk failure by the carrier to adequately protect a 5G network from unauthorised access or interference."

As discussed in a previous article, we believe this may be referencing China's 2017 National Intelligence law, which allows the monitoring and investigation of institutions and individuals in China and overseas.

Of course, anyone familiar with the Australian Government's proposed Assistance and Access Bill may find this ban a tad rich. For the unfamiliar — if passed the Bill will allow law enforcement and security agencies to bypass data encryption on personal devices without judicial oversight.

Regardless, the ban still isn't good news for a company that is trying to build positive brand recognition in Australia, especially during a time where people may be looking to 5G as an alternative to the the NBN.

The potential security issues aside, people may be disinclined to buy a phone that will be less future proofed due to being locked out of the 5G network.

It's going to be interesting to see what Huawei's solution to this will be. Perhaps it will be able to get this ban overturned, or maybe it will need to look at offering non-mobile products a little sooner in Australia.

The author traveled to IFA as a guest of Huawei and Samsung.

Australian Government Bans Huawei And ZTE From 5G

Today it was announced that Huawei and ZTE will be banned from supplying 5G technology to Australia. This comes after months of discussions and investigation regarding the inclusions of Chinese vendors in 5G networks — including Huawei rejecting the claim that it would be a security risk back in June.

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