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Huawei appoints ex BT chair to board as it issues ‘crass’ 5G letter

Mike Rake.jpg

Huawei has appointed the former chair of BT to be a member of its UK board.

Michael Rake (pictured) was chairman of BT for 10 years until 2017, during which BT was an enthusiastic customer for Huawei’s equipment.

Today’s news comes as Huawei issued an open letter at the weekend calling for UK operators to speed up its spending on 5G.

Victor Zhang, vice-president of Huawei and the head of its UK operators, said in the letter that the Coronavirus crisis shows how dependent people are on good broadband, especially those in rural areas “in a digital slow lane”.

Zhang criticised people “who choose to continue to attack us without presenting any evidence”. He said: “Disrupting our involvement in the 5G rollout would do Britain a disservice.”

One of those critics, Conservative politician Bob Seely, called Zhang’s letter “crass and tasteless”.

The letter on Huawei’s website was later moved. “Sorry, the page you are looking for does not exist,” said the page this morning when Capacity clicked on the link sent by Huawei’s PR agency yesterday.

However the letter was then reposted on a different URL. Did Huawei stand by the letter, Capacity asked the company. "100%," said a Huawei representative. 

The letter, included in the body of the email to Capacity, said: “During this pandemic our engineers – designated ‘essential’ workers – are striving around the clock to keep Britain connected. We’re working with the likes of Vodafone, BT, EE and Three to keep businesses online and loved ones in touch. To support the effort, we’ve set up three new warehouses and are redistributing key spare parts around the country to ensure continuity of supply.”

Zhang added: “When we emerge from this crisis, we look forward to continuing to play our role as a key partner in improving the networks, benefiting the economy and ultimately everyone in the UK, ending the postcode lottery of good connectivity.”

This morning, Zhang said of the new appointment that Rake “brings a wealth of relevant experience to our boardroom and I look forward to working with him as we enter the next phase of our partnership with Britain. We’re working round the clock to keep the UK connected through the current crisis and bring affordable, reliable 5G to every corner of the country – so millions more can benefit from fast digital connections.”

Huawei has built up a collection of UK notables for its local board, including John Browne, the former CEO of oil company BP, Ken Olisa, a former IBM executive who is now Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London, and Andrew Cahn, a former civil servant who was CEO of UK Trade & Investment.

Rake emphasised his enthusiasm for Huawei in his statement today: “At BT, I saw first-hand how Huawei worked with Britain’s leading operators to roll out broadband, 3G and 4G. I look forward to working with them again on the next generation of technology as the company extends its 20-year track record in the UK.”