Huawei Chief Slams US Carriers After Collapse of AT&T Deal

LAS VEGAS—The end of a rumored deal to sell Huawei phones through AT&T doesn't just hurt the Chinese company's plans for the US market. It also hurts consumers, Huawei said Tuesday.

"I think it's quite a big loss for us and also for the carriers, but it's more of a big loss for consumers," Richard Yu, chief of Huawei's consumer business group, said during a CES keynote.

Originally, Yu was expected to announce the AT&T deal at CES, but it collapsed a day before his scheduled speech. No one has officially said why AT&T walked away from the partnership, but US lawmakers reportedly have security concerns with Huawei selling a consumer product through a major US mobile carrier. In 2012, a congressional committee declared the company a security threat over its alleged ties with the Chinese government.

Yu said his company's smartphone, the Mate 10 Pro, will still be coming to the US, but only as an unlocked device sold through retailers such as Best Buy and Amazon.

That doesn't bode well for the company's US prospects. Yu said 90 percent of all smartphones in the country are sold through telecommunication carriers. As a result, with the collapse of the AT&T deal, US customers will have less choice when it comes to buying their next handset, Yu said.

Customers in other developed countries trust the company's products, he added. Last year, Huawei sold 153 million smartphones.

During his speech, Yu played a 4-minute video of European customers expressing how satisfied they were with their Huawei phones. He also mentioned his company is following the best security and privacy practices, and that the phones themselves use Google's Android OS.

Despite the setback with AT&T, Yu signaled that he's confident US carriers will sell his company's phones one day. "I do believe that all consumers will select Huawei. Carriers will select Huawei. They need Huawei," he added. "Huawei can bring more value to them."

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