Huawei may not be the first name you think of when talking about smartphones, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an important company. In fact, Huawei is massive, especially behind the scenes in the telecommunications market. Here are a few facts you may not have known about Huawei.

Ren Zhengfei was 42 when he founded Huawei

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In the middle of a mid-life crisis? Who knows, you could found what will go on to be one of the largest companies in the world. That’s what Ren Zhengfei did, anyway. Before founding the company, Zhengfei was in the People’s Liberation Army, serving as a military technologist. While he didn’t hold military rank, he was eventually chosen to be a delegate.

Now, at age 71, Zhengfei is still president of the company, and is the 556th richest person in China, according to Hurun Report.

The word ‘Huawei’ roughly translates to ‘Chinese achievement’

The first character of Huawei’s name in Chinese — 华 — is derived from the Chinese word for flower, but now often refers to ‘China’ or ‘Chinese.’ The second character — 为 — , means ‘achievement’ or ‘action.’ Combined, the two characters literally mean ‘Chinese achievement.’

Huawei is the largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer in the world

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That’s right — Huawei may not have been on your radar as a smartphone company until recently, but it turns out the company is the largest telecommunications equipment maker in the world, having overtaken the likes of Ericsson back in 2012. Of course, that’s not just due to its smartphone business. The company also makes equipment for corporations, telecommunication companies, and so on.

Huawei was first created to produce telephone exchange switches in the 1980s

Again, Huawei may not have surfaced in the western world until recently, but the company has been around for a long time… since the 1980s, in fact. Huawei first started in 1987 in Shenzhen, China. At the time, China and the People’s Liberation Army were relying on telecom equipment from outside manufacturers. Ren wanted to focus on local research and development to build telephone exchange switches because, as he said, “switching equipment technology was related to international security, and that a nation that did not have its own switching equipment was like one that lacked its own military.”

Huawei has partnered with approximately 80% of the world’s top telecommunications companies

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Some of the major companies Huawei has worked with include the likes of Vodafone, Motorola, T-Mobile, and so on. Beyond simply making its own smartphones, Huawei is known as a partner for other companies too, showing just how influential in the industry the company is. Huawei has also sponsored a number of major events and sports teams, including Arsenal F.C., Paris Saint-Germain, the Ghana Football Association, and more.

Huawei invested over a million dollars in a university in Canada

The company has invested $1.4 million in Carleton University in Canada. Why? The goal was to establish a research lab dedicated largely to the development of cloud computing services and technology. Of course, in the end this could greatly benefit the company, but it’s still a nice thing to see.

In fact, Huawei has donated money to a number of services in the name of education. The company has also sponsored MIT’s Communications Futures Program, which studies the future of the telecommunications industry as a whole.

Huawei is a largely employee-owned company

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Huawei is an employee-owned company, which is something it uses as a way to distance itself from claims that it’s under government control. What that basically means is that employees own stock in the company, with around 64 percent of employees participating in the employee ownership scheme. These employees own “virtual restricted shares,” or shares that are not tradable, and are awarded based on performance. When an employee leaves the company, those shares are reverted back to Huawei, and the employees are compensated for their holding.

It’s important to note that just because employees generally own Huawei doesn’t mean they control it. Huawei is still controlled and managed by a subset of management, and Ren actually has the power to veto any major decision as he sees fit. Huawei does say, however, that the Union votes every five years to elect 51 representatives who then select the board of 17 directors.

Huawei has had a rough history with U.S. security

Huawei has long been challenged by the U.S. government because of concerns that the company may be working with the Chinese government to spy on the U.S. Huawei has argued that these claims are ‘unfounded’, and has even called on the U.S. government to perform an investigation to prove that there is no spying going on. Despite not finding anything in those investigations, the U.S. House Intelligence Committee issues a report describing the company as a ‘national security threat’ in 2012, due to its ties with the Chinese government.

Over 75,000 Huawei employees are in R&D

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Huawei is a big company, but its research and development team is huge — 76,000 employee-strong, in fact. This explains how they’ve been able to become so large, as it invests huge amounts of money in staying on top of the latest technology trends. Around 10% of the company’s income is put straight back into R&D, which helps the company develop its latest and greatest products.

Huawei increased its earnings by 30% in 2010

That’s a lot of income increase. Part of the massive increase had to do with significant growth overseas including in the U.S., and sales outside of China became the company’s main business. In fact, Huawei accounted for as much as 15.7 percent of the $78.56 billion global carrier-network-infrastructure market in 2010, according to Gartner.

Whether you’re a fan of Huawei or not, there’s no denying that the company has had an interesting past. Know of any other interesting facts we missed? Be sure to leave a comment below!