BT

BT CEO: Huawei is a "good partner"

October 25, 2013: 10:23 AM ET

Gavin_PattersonBT's chief praises the China-based gear maker for its help in broadband rollout and more.

FORTUNE -- Gavin Patterson, CEO of British telecom company BT Group (BT), praised China-based Huawei Technologies, a key supplier, for its willingness to collaborate and its innovation in BT's rollout of superfast broadband in the United Kingdom.

"They're a good partner for us; they're very customer focused," said Patterson, in New York this week to announce an audioconferencing joint venture with Dolby Laboratories (DLB). Huawei has been a BT partner since 2005, when it signed a contract to provide equipment for the British phone company's "21CN" (short for 21st century) infrastructure upgrade.

Huawei has been less successful in the United States. Despite its successes with BT and other non-Chinese clients, the company has had trouble winning major contracts in the U.S. because some lawmakers fear Huawei's presence in U.S. networks would leave domestic carriers open to cyber-threats from the Chinese government.

MORE: Huawei (yes, Huawei) pushing for global security standards

Huawei repeatedly has said its interests are purely commercial, and the company has tried hard to ingratiate itself with Americans, touting its local operations (translation: American jobs) and even sponsoring a Jonas Brothers tour.

Patterson, who became CEO of BT in September, saids he's confident that BT's networks are secure. "The U.K. government tests our network and looks at Huawei and all our equipment manfuacturers, and has given us a strong endorsement," he said.

Huawei has continued to earn his business by being responsive to his network's needs, and for being innovative. He also notes that Huawei giving their products away just to win his business. "They're good value for the money but they're no pushover," he said.

BT's alliances -- with Huawei, Dolby, and others--reflect a widespread willingness on the part of British institutions to team up with non-U.K. partners. During a visit to the U.S. earlier this year British Prime Minister David Cameron told a group of Time Inc. editors that he welcomes international direct investment in the U.K.

"I said to the Chinese Investment Corporation the other day, 'I'm not embarrassed you own 10% of our biggest water company or a big chunk of Heathrow Airport. I think its absolutely great,'" he said.

MORE: U.K.'s Cameron to China, India: We're open for business.

Patterson speculates that this openness is partly historical, dating back to Britain's golden era and its mercantile roots, and partly a modern response to its economic constraints. "There's a recognition that we're relatively small and if we are going to grow as an economy we have to be open to globalization."

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