Chinese tech giant, Huawei, has been at the forefront of 5G – the latest generation of mobile technology that’s faster, smarter and more powerful than the current standard. They’ve secured roll-out contracts with nearly 30 countries.
A notable exception is the U.S., which considers the company to be a national security threat.
“They’ve been regarding 5G as the technology at the same level of the – some other military equipment. 5G is not an atomic bomb,” Huawei founder and president Ren Zhengfei told “CBS This Morning” co-host Bianna Golodrgya in his first TV interview with an American journalist.
5G is the latest high-speed mobile innovation, promising to multiply wireless internet speeds and increase coverage.
“Now we are rolling out 5G and soon we’ll welcome 6G. And in the future, I said there will be new equipment that is suitable for the United States,” Ren said.
But U.S. intelligence agencies are concerned about Huawei’s 5G growth.
“It is so much faster and it allows such a larger data flow that it significantly enhances the capabilities of an intelligence service to steal data,” former CIA acting director and CBS News national security contributor Michael Morell said.
“5G is going to allow a much larger number of devices to be connected to the internet. When you connect more devices, you create more platforms from which an intelligence service can spy from,” Morell added.
The Trump administration has warned its allies it may reconsider its military relationships with countries that use Huawei.
“We cannot ensure the defense of the West if our allies grow dependent on the East,” Vice President Mike Pence said last week at the Munich Security Conference.
“Do you view that as a threat?” Golodryga asked Ren.
“First of all, I would like to thank them because they are great figures,” Ren said, adding, “5G was not known by common people. But now, these great figures are all talking about 5G… And we’re becoming more influential and getting more contracts.”
“I sense a little bit of sarcasm there,” Golodryga responded.
“Oh, please tell them – I’m actually thanking them for promoting us,” Ren said.
Despite warnings from the Trump administration, some of our European allies, including Germany and the U.K., are reportedly considering allowing Huawei to build their high-speed infrastructure.
Some Americans already rely on Huawei technology, like Mike Kilgore, who runs a wireless provider servicing more than 11,000 square miles of rural Montana.
“It’s technologically advanced, it’s reliable as all get out, and it’s affordable,” said Kilgore, CEO of Nemont Telephone Cooperative and president of the Rural Wireless Association. “We’ve heard of the security concerns, we’ve heard of the allegations of the connections to the Chinese government, but… nobody has ever produced any evidence related to that.”
As the Trump administration weighs a ban on all Chinese telecoms in the U.S., Kilgore is worried his company wouldn’t survive, leaving his community essentially without service.
“If you did not have the ability to dial 911 from a cell phone, I just, I can’t… that turns my stomach,” Kilgore said.
For Ren, despite all the criticism from the administration, he knows his company’s future in America is in the president’s hands.
“For President Trump, I think he is a great president because in a very short period of time, he was able to reduce the tax rate,” Ren said.
“You speak very highly of President Trump, yet he is likely to issue an executive order banning your company from doing any business in the United States. How do you square the two?” Golodryga asked.
“Well, we have never had many sales in the United States. But we didn’t give up our efforts in this country,” Ren responded with a laugh.
CBS News reached out to the Justice Department, but they did not provide comment.