Feedback from big mobile and Internet providers in Europe, and especially the UK, indicated they would have to fork out more to replace equipment from Huawei and another Chinese firm, ZTE, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Executives from these companies told the newspaper that Huawei hardware was much better than the rest on offer and often cost less; not using it could well mean that Europe would lag Asia and countries in other regions that use gear from Huawei for their 5G rollouts.
The US has been campaigning for at least the last two years to try and get countries that it considers allies not to use Huawei equipment in the rollout of 5G networks. Australia has bowed to these wishes, as has New Zealand.
Nick Read, chief executive of Vodafone Group, was quoted as saying in January that a total ban on the carrier's use of Huawei equipment “would have significant financial cost, would have significant customer disruption and would delay 5G rollout in several countries”. The UK's four major wireless operators — Vodafone, BT Group, Telefonica and CK Hutchison Holdings' Three — were all against a ban.
But it is not only big carriers who prefer Huawei equipment, with Jersey Telecom, a publicly-owned company operating in the Isle of Jersey, also expressing a preference for Chinese equipment.
The company sought bids from both Chinese and Western companies in 2014 for its wireless network and while Huawei's bid 20% below the lowest Western offer, ZTE was 40% cheaper. Jersey Telecom chief executive Graeme Millar went with ZTE, and commented: "I have a genuinely high-class, low-cost supplier with ZTE, who haven’t let me down yet.”
The report said the chief executive of a major Italian wireless carrier was called to the US embassy in Rome last year and told by diplomats and intelligence officers to stop using Huawei equipment. But the company continued to use the gear.
British Telecom said in December last year that it was removing Huawei gear from the core of its 3G and 4G networks and would not use equipment from the company in the core of its 5G networks.
Huawei and the British National Cyber Security Centre operate a centre financed by the former, where equipment is checked before being used, given the scaremongering over Huawei by the US since a 2012 Congress report made unspecified claims about the firm being a front for spying by China.
The WSJ report cited British wireless executives as saying Huawei could release 5G equipment up to a year ahead of its two main Western rivals – Ericsson and Nokia. Another executive said a total ban on Huawei would mean a delay of at least 18 months in rolling out 5G at the company where he worked.
Some sources said there was a fear in Britain and America that Huawei and ZTE could put their competitors out of business altogether and become the only source of telecommunications equipment in the future.
British officials are said to favour the use of Huawei equipment in areas of networks other than the core, like cellular towers.