John Chambers, Cisco Systems’ president and chief executive officer, would partner with Chinese rival Huawei Technologies if the opportunity ever arose.
“I would love to partner with Huawei,” Chambers told reporters during a news conference at the Telecom World 2006 conference and exhibition organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in Hong Kong.
“That may or may not happen in the future,” he said.
Huawei is based in Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong, and has built a growing business on sales of telecommunications and networking gear. In addition to providing equipment to operators in China and in developing nations, Huawei has won significant deals from operators in Europe. In 2005, the company signed contracts worth US$8.2 billion, of which 58 percent came from outside China.
Relations between Cisco and Huawei have not always been warm. In 2003, Cisco sued Huawei for allegedly copying its IOS software. Cisco dropped that suit in 2004 after Huawei agreed to make changes to its software source code and user manuals.
In recent years, Huawei has entered into several partnerships with multinational networking and telecommunication vendors, but these deals have not generally lasted very long. For example, a partnership agreement between Huawei and Nortel Networks announced in February never even got off the ground. Within four months, the two companies abandoned their plans to jointly develop broadband products.
A joint venture between Huawei and 3Com also did not last. Established in 2003, Huawei-3Com paired Huawei’s enterprise networking unit with 3Com’s financial backing. Under a deal announced last month, 3Com plans to buy out Huawei’s remaining stake in the company, which sold 2 million routers and switches last year and employs about 5,000.
Chambers said Cisco has a partnership in several areas with ZTE, another Chinese telecommunication equipment vendor that has looked to expand beyond its home market into new markets overseas.
Telecom World runs through Friday.
-Sumner Lemon, IDG News Service (Singapore Bureau)
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