Russia rolls out the red carpet for Huawei over 5G

People queue outside a newly opened Huawei flagship store in Shenzhen in China’s southern Guangdong province. (AFP)
Updated 30 September 2019

Russia rolls out the red carpet for Huawei over 5G

  • The smartphone company plans to lead in the development of 6G in future, says top official

MOSCOW: While the US banned Huawei for alleged espionage and asked its allies to do the same, Moscow has rolled out the red carpet for the Chinese tech company, letting it develop 5G networks in Russia.

Analysts say the move is as much a show of solidarity with Beijing against the US as it is a drive to bring ultra high-speed internet to Russian tech users.

This month, Huawei opened its first 5G test zone in Moscow in partnership Russian operator MTS, with a view to rolling out the service to the rest of the capital.

Moscow authorities say the network will become part of the city’s normal infrastructure within the next few years.

A pioneer in telecoms networks compared to many Western countries, Russia plans to deploy 5G in all of its main cities by 2024.

When Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Russia in June — at the height of Washington’s conflict with Huawei — Russia’s main operator MTS signed a contract with the Chinese company.

At the inauguration of the 5G zone in Moscow, the CEO of Russia’s branch of Huawei Zhao Lei praised the company’s activities in the country.

“We have been working in Russia for 22 years. Thanks to our partners, we live well here,” he said. He added that Huawei, considered a world leader in 5G technology, plans to “lead in the development of 6G” in the future.

Huawei is also the world’s second-largest smartphone company. It did not respond to AFP’s interview requests. A source in Russia’s 5G research community said Huawei is the biggest investor in the development of mobile technologies in Russia, with “the largest research laboratory of all operators” in Moscow.

According to the Vedomosti business daily, Huawei currently employs 400 people in Moscow and 150 in Saint Petersburg in mobile research and development. It aims to employ 500 more people by the end of 2019 and 1,000 more over five years.

Experts said Russia’s welcome of Huawei does not mean the Chinese company is alone in the race for developing 5G in Russia.

“Russian operators are all collaborating with multiple 5G equipment vendors, Huawei included. We do not see any clear 5G leaders in the network deployment in Russia,” said Michela Landoni, an analyst at Fitch Solutions. She said operators prefer this approach to avoid being “reliant on one specific vendor” and to protect themselves against cyber threats.

The Tele2 operator was the first to launch 5G in Russia with Sweden’s Ericsson in August, on Moscow’s main Tverskaya street.

In the midst of a trade war and technological rivalry with China, the US has threatened to cut Huawei’s access to the US components and services it needs, such as the Android operating system that the company uses on its phones.

Russia then promptly stepped in to offer its Aurora operating system to the Chinese group.

If Android remains Huawei’s preferred choice, Landoni said Aurora could be a “short-term solution” for the group.

According to the analyst, Aurora could become a “stepping stone” in the development for Huawei’s own OS.


A female entrepreneur brings crowdlending to Saudi Arabia

(Photo/Shutterstock)
Updated 25 January 2020

A female entrepreneur brings crowdlending to Saudi Arabia

  • Shariah-compliant peer-to-peer lending platform called Forus to be launched this year
  • Founder Nosaibah Alrajhi aims to help businesses and small investors in the Kingdom

RIYADH: It is no secret that small businesses struggle with obtaining funds to expand, with one avenue being particularly tricky in the region: Trying to rely on a national bank for help.
While things are improving, they are not doing so quickly enough. These longstanding problems have inspired Nosaibah Alrajhi, a former investment banker, to launch Forus, a Shariah-compliant peer-to-peer lending platform that she hopes can help bolster Saudi Arabia’s economic growth and enrich both business owners and small investors.
“It’s very straightforward: We bring together investors and SMEs (small and medium enterprises). Crowdlending will provide a steadier and safer return than say, investing in stocks or investment funds,” said Alrajhi, who serves as co-founder and chief executive.
“If you compare it to real estate, for example, you need a lot of cash upfront to invest in property, but with P2P (peer-to-peer) lending it provides almost everyone with the opportunity to invest and get a return.”
Having received a special license in July 2019, Forus will launch its platform in early 2020. For investors, it is quick and easy to register: You just need to complete a standard know-your-customer (KYC) process, and you will then be able to lend SR500 ($133) to SR10,000 to whichever companies you choose.
For would-be borrowers, Forus will undertake a credit and risk analysis that usually takes about 10 days.
“We do all the due diligence, and once companies meet our benchmarks, they’re listed on the platform, giving investors — individual and institutional — the opportunity to lend them money,” said Alrajhi. “We call it income investments — investors get their money back, plus fees.”
Companies listed on the online platform are rated according to risk — the bigger the risk, the larger the return for lenders. Companies can borrow up to a maximum of SR2 million.
“Investors can look at the companies’ financial reports, their strategy, their team, their products, as well as specific financial ratios that will help them make their decision,” said Alrajhi.
A company will request to borrow a certain amount, and once this is fully pledged by investors, it will receive the loan. Forus, in turn, earns a small commission. Loans are for six to 48 months.
“Our marketplace is providing investors with diversified alternative options (for) investing, while businesses are empowered with an opportunity to grow and scale,” said Alrajhi.
“We achieve this by minimizing friction, streamlining the customer experience and providing a seamless, secure and transparent platform.”
Alrajhi holds an MBA from Madrid’s IE Business School, where her research led her to spot a gap in the market for a fintech-based, P2P lender in Saudi Arabia.
“If you look at the market today, there’s only a few banks who are willing to lend to SMEs, which banks see as quite high risk,” said Alrajhi. “In Saudi, there are roughly 16,000 SMEs looking for loans.”
Forus uses a murabaha — cost plus financing — structure for its loans, which are not interest-bearing and so are Shariah-compliant.
In English, Shariah-compliant lending will refer to a profit rate rather than an interest rate, although in Arabic there is no such linguistic distinction.
Nevertheless, Forus’s loans are Islamic. “In Saudi, the biggest market is for Shariah-compliant financial services,” said Alrajhi.
She hopes her platform will provide a win-win for investors and SMEs — investors can earn a bigger return on their money, while SMEs can obtain the funds needed to expand their operations and increase profits.
In the longer term, Forus plans to expand to Egypt and Pakistan, but for now Alrajhi’s focus is firmly on her native Saudi Arabia.
“One of the main impacts we aim to have is transparency, which will then enable financial inclusion and help increase GDP (gross domestic product),” she said.
“We’ve talked to so many SMEs, and we found that almost all are facing challenges when it comes to borrowing.”
She leads a team of 10 staff at Forus, and is a female trailblazer in the Kingdom’s male-dominated financial services sector and more broadly in Saudi Arabia, where women constitute less than 25 percent of the workforce.
“Within the next five years, Saudi’s financial sector will look completely different,” said Alrajhi.


This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.