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Huawei CEO: Lack of US carrier support a big loss for you

Huawei addresses the controversy over a failed deal to have AT&T sell its flagship phone at its CES keynote.


Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei's consumer business, addresses the rumors about its failed deal with AT&T.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Chinese telecom giant Huawei took more than an hour before addressing the elephant in the room. 

The CEO of Huawei's consumer business, Richard Yu, spent a bulk of his CES keynote on Tuesday talking up the features and the US availability of its Mate10 Pro smartphone

The company was widely expected to announce that AT&T would partner to sell the device, a breakthrough for the world's third largest phone maker that is virtually an unknown in the US. Alas, that was not to be.

Yu finally addressed the issue at the end of the keynote, admitting that the loss of US carrier support hurt Huawei. But he stressed that it was a bigger blow to consumers who lose out on a strong option for a smartphone. 

The keynote capped off a tough CES for Huawei, which was riding into the show with what seemed like good news. But then word broke Monday that AT&T was not going to sell the phone. The word came out Verizon may bow out of selling Huawei phones too

The drama, flaring up at one of the tech industry's biggest shows, resurrects the chatter about the security concerns over Huawei's products. The company has been dogged by allegations that it is affiliated with the Chinese government, and the US House Intelligence in 2012 discouraged US companies from buying Huawei and ZTE equipment

At the time, the government said the ban didn't apply to phones, but those concerns have followed Huawei. 

AT&T declined to comment on the reports and said it has never acknowledged the rumors of a possible Huawei phone. 

Verizon wasn't available for comment. 

Even without the concerns over security, which Yu addressed by saying its Mate10 Pro adhered to the strictest security and privacy standards, Huawei faces the bigger problem that people just don't know anything about the company — or even how to pronounce its name (It's way-way). The company even has a sub-brand called Honor that it's trying to separately get into the US without the baggage of its parent. 

To address its recognition issue, Huawei hired Gal Gadot as the "chief experience officer" to serve as a high-profile advocate for the company. 

While Gadot, who appeared on video with a segment that ended with her teaching the audience how to pronounce both Huawei and Gadot (it's guh-dot), is a high-profile figure thanks to "Wonder Woman," it's questionable what effect -- if any -- she will have on the brand. 

After all, BlackBerry tried to get some heat by hiring Alicia Keys as its "Global Creative Director." Look how that turned out. 

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