CES 2018: Why China's Huawei Won't Be Signing a Deal with AT&T

Drama in tech paradise.

Getty Images / David Becker

For the most part, CES has a well-earned reputation as a tech company public relations bonanza. Speakers get on stage and flaunt their latest smartphone invention or rollable TV screen.

Most of these speeches are delivered by the playbook, with very little deviation. But this year Richard Yu, the CEO of Huawei’s consumer products division, threw some major shade at AT&T during his keynote speech.

This wasn’t totally unfounded though. This Monday The Wall Street Journal reported that AT&T abruptly backed out of a deal to sell Huawei newest phone, the Mate 10 Pro. Their reason, U.S. lawmakers expressed concerned about potential ties between Huawei and the Chinese government.

Right before the end of his presentation, Yu flipped to a slide that read “Something I want to Share” and minced no words.

LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 05, 2017: CEO of Huawei Consumer Business Group Richard Yu.

Getty Images / Ethan Miller

“Everybody knows that in the US market that over 90 percent of smartphones are sold by carrier channels,” said the CEO. “It’s a big loss for us, and also for carriers, but the more big loss is for consumers because consumers don’t have the best choice.”

Not signing this deal with AT&T won’t completely knock Huawei out of the U.S. market, but the Mate 10 Pro won’t sell anywhere near as well as they anticipated. Consumers will still be able to get their hands on Huawei’s newest smartphone by purchasing an unlocked one online, but AT&T stores will not be carrying it.

The success of this deal would have rocketed Huawei to tech stardom, as they’re already the third largest smartphone vendor in the world. The Chinese telecommunications firm has been suspected of working closely with the country’s government in the past past. Yu didn’t hold back when it came to expressing his frustration.

“We win the trust of the Chinese carriers, we win the trust of the emerging markets… and also we win the trust of the global carriers, all the European and Japanese carriers,” he said. “We are serving over 70 million people worldwide. We’ve proven our quality, we’ve proven our privacy and security protection.”

As ever, CES remains the only place to geek out over all your favorite tech and watch some real-time company drama.