Friday, 15 February 2019 11:35

US bid to push Europe on Huawei ban meets resistance Featured

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US bid to push Europe on Huawei ban meets resistance Pixabay

The US is facing resistance from European countries it considers allies as it tries to convince them not to use equipment from Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies in their 5G networks.

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.

As iTWire  reported on Wednesday, US President Donald Trump may issue an executive order this week banning the use of telecommunications equipment from Chinese companies in American wireless networks.

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.

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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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