Thursday, 28 February 2019 09:03

Major US Gulf allies sign 5G deals with Huawei at MWC Featured

Major US Gulf allies sign 5G deals with Huawei at MWC Image by Andy_Bay on Pixabay

Two major US allies in the Persian Gulf have apparently ignored Washington's advice about not using equipment from Chinese vendor Huawei in their 5G networks and signed deals with the company.

The deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were both announced at MWC in Barcelona during the week.

The US had sent a team to MWC (formerly known as Mobile World Congress) led by Robert Strayer, the State Department’s top cyber security diplomat, to canvass support among countries it considers allies and get them to agree not to use Huawei gear in their 5G rollouts.

But both Riyadh and Abu Dhabi apparently either did not get the message or else chose to act on their own.

Saudi Telecom Company signed a deal on Tuesday called Aspiration Project for modernisation of the E2E wireless network and construction of the 5G network.

The UAE deal, with the state-owned Etisalat Group, was announced on Monday and reported by The Wall Street Journal. It includes the building of 300 cellular towers. No details were provided about the financial components of either deal.

While a statement about the Saudi deal is available on the Huawei website, there is nothing regarding the UAE deal.

Huawei rotating chairman Ken Hu told the WSJ that the company had signed 30 5G commercial contracts thus far – 18 in Europe, nine in the Middle East and three in the Asia-Pacific region.

Engineer Nasser Al Nasser, chief executive of STC, said in a statement: "STC is committed to pioneering the 5G network development and deployment in order to deliver the pledged fully digitised society in KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia).

"We have already put ourselves on the road to pioneer and shape the future of 5G services in KSA and beyond. Our collaborations with Huawei will enhance and push forward the boundaries for our 5G ambitions.

"Our customer deserves all the capabilities and distinguishing services that the 5G network will offer in the near future. We are very excited by the endless opportunities and the bright future that the 5G network promises to deliver to all our worthy customers."

The Saudi 5G project aims to contribute more than 2 billion Saudi riyals (approximately A$747 million) to local industry, boost the employment of Saudis in next-generation technology and management positions by 50%, increase SME support by 20%, and double the direct innovation investment made by STC Strategic Partners for 5G industry development within the country.

Saudi Arabia is the biggest and most influential country in the six-nation Gulf Co-operation Council, which includes the UAE, Qatar, the Sultanate of Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain. Qatar hosts a major US military base while Bahrain plays host to the US Sixth Fleet.

Riyadh is a close American ally and was the first country that US President Donald Trump visited after taking office. It buys huge quantities of arms from the US.

The UAE is also extremely close to Washington and buys a fairly big amount of arms as well. Both countries share similar views on containing Iran, seen as a common foe, with the US.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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