Huawei invades Nokia’s home turf with $90m R&D investment

The symbolism could not be more appropriate: Huawei is to open up a major R&D facility in Helsinki, with an eye on mobile device development.

According to a statement from the Chinese telecoms behemoth, the 30 employees it will be hiring at the center will be working on smartphone and tablet software development, “optimizing the user experience of existing operating systems such as Android and Windows Phone 8”.

“We believe the key to building our brand is to provide consumers with a reliable and differentiated user experience,” Huawei VP for Central, Eastern and Nordic Europe Kenneth Fredriksen said in a statement. “The open and innovative environment in Finland is an ideal place for Huawei to strengthen our global R&D capabilities for devices, creating opportunities for both Huawei and the Finnish telecommunications industry.”

Over the coming five years, that job tally should hit 100, through a total investment of €70m ($90m). It’s not quite the $2bn investment that Huawei announced for its UK operations back in September (hey, if the U.S. doesn’t want to play…) but it’s a hefty chunk of cash nonetheless.

Huawei certainly won’t have trouble finding experienced engineers in Helsinki. The decline of Nokia – as evidenced by the sale last week of the company’s Helsinki HQ – has seen hundreds shed over the past couple of years, and they can’t all go work for Jolla.


In the wider picture, this investment underscores the tremendous geographical shift taking place in the telecoms industry.

Europe was once the center of that industry, thanks to companies such as Alcatel, Ericsson and Nokia. Since the iPhone, however, the handset industry has moved to the U.S., Korea and Taiwan. Meanwhile, the infrastructure part of the game is being increasingly taken over by Huawei and ZTE.

The Chinese firms are, of course, also in the handset business. Indeed, their low-cost Android phones are making a serious dent in the low end of the market, a sector until recently dominated by Nokia. Nokia decided to forego Android in favour of Windows Phone, and now it’s very likely that former Nokia employees will find themselves working on ‘optimizing’ both Android and Windows Phone 8 over at Huawei’s new facility.

These things work the other way round too, though. Nokia also decided to ditch MeeGo when it partnered up with Microsoft, and now Jolla is pushing hard with the MeeGo-derived Sailfish OS in China.

When I was at the Slush conference in Helsinki last month, some speaker maintained that Finland and China were part of the same region. I thought the notion absurd – Finland and Russia, sure, but China was pushing it. Only half-jokingly, I can say I’m no longer so sure.