Ever since the United States government announced a blacklisting of Huawei, and instructed American companies to no longer supply the Chinese firm with components or services, there have been a myriad questions that needed addressing.

Up until now Huawei South Africa has remained relatively quiet on the subject, only issuing press releases that echoed what their global executives were saying to the international press.

That changed recently, however, as we got the chance to sit down with Huawei South Africa’s general manager, Likun Zhao, and its chief technology officer, Akhram Mohamed.

The pair touched on the implications of the company potentially losing its Android license, what that means for the local consumer experience, the plan B that the firm is working on, and much more.

This is what they had to say.

Business as usual?

The first topic of discussion that Zhao and Mohamed wanted to get on the record was their current state of affairs, especially as the firm’s relative silence on the matter left lots of room for misinformation, which is also something they acknowledge and take ownership of.

With regard to misinformation, Zhao and Mohamed say that all current Huawei phones (which is up to and including the P30 Series) will still be fully supported and receive regular operating system (OS) and security updates. That goes for both Google and non-Google apps, in spite of Huawei potentially having their Android pulled in a couple of months.

“From Huawei’s side, we’ve promised that all existing Huawei smartphones and tablets will continue to receive Android updates, including security patches. We’ve also promised that Google applications, and non-Google applications will work as usual, even after the 90 days (the deadline from Google),” says the GM.

“We want to be very clear in our communication with local consumers,” he adds.

This is one area that Zhao and Mohamed wanted to clarify, as it was something that was being misreported in their view. As such if you own a Huawei phone at the moment, the experience will continue unhampered, they explain.

More devices?

The same extends to hardware, according to Huawei South Africa, with both executives stating firmly that all mobile hardware will still be coming to the country later this year, regardless of what happens with Google and the United States government.

When asked about the foldable Huawei Mate X, Zhao notes that the date of arrival may change, but it is still a device that the firm is excited to launch locally in coming months, given that it will support 5G.

As for yet-to-be revealed devices, such as the next Mate series of phones, and future 5G smartphones, Mohamed confirms that South Africa is still very much a first wave country in Huawei’s view. To that end when a flagship device is scheduled for launch in Europe and Asia, South Africa will get them too.

“The business decisions don’t change. South Africa’s importance doesn’t change. We will still be first wave, and still be as important for Global (Huawei),” states the CTO.

Zhao adds that this goes for Huawei’s local 5G plans too. In particular he mentions that the company’s work with Rain to launch the country’s first commercially available 5G network is currently in the testing phase and on course to meet its deadline. He also explains that Huawei is still working closely with other carriers and networks in South Africa on their 5G rollout plans.

He could not offer a more definitive deadline in this regard, as South Africa’s regulators are still to make the necessary spectrum available.

Backup plan?

One of the important elements we spoke about was rumours of Huawei having its own operating system ready to launch later this year, should their situation with the US and Google not be resolved soon.

While the pair would not officially confirm that there is indeed a Huawei-designed OS waiting in the wings, they do refer to the firm having a plan B in place.

“As discussions are ongoing, we cannot mention specifics about plan B at the moment, but we do want to provide as good an experience or better than that of Android,” says Zhao.

They also add that this plan B has been something that Huawei has been working on for some time, but also cautioned that their most ideal situation is to continue working with Google and having Android as a mobile device ecosystem partner.

“Plan B isn’t something that was developed because of the current problem. It’s been in the works for some time,” Mohamed points out.

“Our goal has always been to think of what the best consumer experience is. Right now, because of the popularity of Android, that’s where we want to be. That’s where our focus is, to make sure that plan A works, but if we have to go to plan B, it needs to be the best solution,” he explains.

Mohamed also adds that both Huawei and Google have acknowledged that this is less than an ideal situation, and that not having Android on future devices isn’t in either parties best interest.

Immediate future?

So what does Huawei’s immediate future hold?

According to Zhao and Mohamed it is business as usual for the firm, as both state that while the current situation has hampered things for the company, they are still working as if their plan A is in effect, but have plan B ready and waiting if needed.

“We’re saying Android will work on your existing Huawei phone after that 90-day period. I think when we’re talking about plan B or plan A for future product, that’s something we still need to decide on,” says the CTO.

When asked about how this could damage their local market share and desire to be the top mobile vendor in South Africa, Zhao says that it pushes out their plan to be number one in the country by a year or two.

Mohamed also explains that for Huawei there isn’t a concern of sliding locally or losing the second spot, but rather that the firm will not achieve its goal of being number one.

“I think it’s important to clarify. The worst case scenario for us is not being able to reach our target. Losing the number two spot is not something that factors into our thinking. We’re not concerned about falling, but rather not reaching top spot,” he concludes.

As such it seems like both Zhao and Mohamed are still buoyantly optimistic despite the current situation, which is a sentiment that Huawei’s CEO and founder Ren Zhengfei also shares.

While we certainly admire their continued optimism, it should still be interesting to see what happens if Google pulls the Android license from future Huawei devices. In any event, Huawei South Africa is preparing for a multitude of situations.