Huawei may sell its 5G technology to a Western buyer

Ren Zhengfei wants to create a competitor for his company

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IN AN ATRIUM designed to evoke ancient Greece—ringed by stone columns and six towering approximations of the Caryatids—it was fitting that Ren Zhengfei, chief executive of Huawei, should extend an olive branch to the West: a piece of his company. The palatial edifice on Huawei’s sprawling campus in Shenzhen houses an exhibition hall proudly displaying the Chinese telecommunications giant’s “fifth-generation” (5G) technology. The ultra-swift, and ultra-coveted, mobile-phone networks will soon connect everything from cars to industrial robots.

It is this 5G technology—central to Huawei’s future revenue growth—that Mr Ren said he was ready to share, in a two-hour interview with The Economist on September 10th. For a one-time fee, a transaction would give the buyer perpetual access to Huawei’s existing 5G patents, licences, code, technical blueprints and production know-how. The acquirer could modify the source code, meaning that neither Huawei nor the Chinese government would have even hypothetical control of any telecoms infrastructure built using equipment produced by the new company. Huawei would likewise be free to develop its technology in whatever direction it pleases.

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