• Huawei’s plans to bring its smartphones to the US for the first time were thrown into disarray when AT&T, the lone US carrier, decided to drop its distribution deal at the last minute.
  • Huawei will still sell the Mate 10 Pro smartphone in the US, but without the help of a carrier.
  • Huawei’s consumer CEO Richard Yu addressed the fallout of the deal in a rare off-script moment at CES 2018 in Las Vegas.

It was supposed to be Huawei’s big night. The Chinese smartphone maker in Las Vegas to announce its first US-bound smartphone, the Mate 10 Pro, at CES 2018, the biggest tech event of the year.

But at the last minute, AT&T threw a wrench into those plans by pulling its distribution deal with Huawei, reportedly due to political pressure.

Huawei still plans to sell its Mate 10 Pro smartphone in the US, but it will do so at a clear disadvantage: It will be sold unlocked, without the help of a US carrier. And unfortunately for Huawei, about 90% of US consumers go through carriers to buy new phones.

At the conclusion of Huawei’s big CES keynote presentation on Tuesday night, the CEO of the Huawei’s consumer business group Richard Yu went off-script to address his disappointment with AT&T’s decision. It was a rare, authentic moment for CES, and the tech world in general.

"Everybody knows that in the US market that over 90% of smartphones are sold by carrier channels," Yu said. "It's a big loss for us, and also for carriers, but the [bigger] loss is for consumers, because consumers don't have the best choice."

"I've been working for Huawei for 25 years now," Yu continued. "The very first time we do this product, we cannot even be trusted by Chinese carriers because we are newcomers. It was very hard. But we won the trust of the Chinese carriers, we won the trust of the developing market, and we also won the global carriers - all the European and Japanese carriers. Over the last 30 years, we've proven our quality."

Yu went on to talk about how he joined Huawei as a grad student, and how the founder's passion for putting customers first and investing in technology and innovation is what's made the company so successful.

"We're working so hard. We're loyal to our customers. We'll win the trust of global customers - I remember six years ago, our smartphones were nothing. Nobody knows us, nobody knows the Huawei brand. Six years pass, and we're top three in the world."

You can watch the entire Huawei keynote below, but Richard Yu's speech begins around 1 hour, 3 minutes and 28 seconds in.