European wireless carriers raise concerns over reduced 5G competition


Huawei is fighting back amid accusations of violating US trade sanctions on Iran and stealing trade secrets. —SCMP

Huawei is fighting back amid accusations of violating US trade sanctions on Iran and stealing trade secrets. —SCMP

The GSMA, an association representing mobile operators worldwide, called for Europe to “safeguard network security and competition” in the telecommunications infrastructure industry, as the US warns its European allies against using equipment from Huawei.

The letter from the wireless industry group, which represent over 750 carriers globally, highlights the widespread effects brought about by a possible Western ban on Huawei, though did not specifically refer to Huawei. The Chinese company is currently the world’s No 1 telecoms equipment supplier, and its products are used by carriers all over the world – including in rural US and in major European countries like Germany.

“As with 4G, robust competition among network infrastructure suppliers is essential to European operators’ ability to deliver innovative services to European citizens and businesses at competitive and affordable prices,” GSMA wrote in the letter.

The advent of 5G, which could be up to 100 times faster than current 4G networks, will enable innovations in artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and big data, GSMA said.

“Limiting or stalling the deployment of 5G or requiring changes to existing 4G infrastructure, risks leaving European consumers and businesses behind,” it wrote.

Huawei is fighting back amid accusations of violating US trade sanctions on Iran and stealing trade secrets, on top of national security concerns that its telecoms infrastructure could be used for spying purposes by the Chinese government.

GSMA’s appeal to European lawmakers, who are still reviewing whether to ban Huawei from supplying equipment to operators, underscores how intertwined Huawei has become with operators around the world.

Even the US, the most outspoken against Huawei, has rural carriers dependent on the company for their networks. At a US congressional hearing earlier this month Steven K Berry, president and chief executive of the Competitive Carriers Association, said that eliminating Huawei as a choice for telecoms equipment would “put more pressure on (the US) as a nation and on the carriers”.

In Europe, Poland and the Czech Republic have sided with US calls to exclude Huawei’s 5G products from telecoms networks. Poland’s internal affairs minister Joachim Brudziński called for the European Union and Nato to take a “join stance” on Huawei after one of the company’s employees was arrested in Poland on suspicion of espionage.

Czech Republic’s cybersecurity agency in December warned of potential national security threats in using Huawei’s equipment – a stance opposite to that of Czech president Milos Zeman, an outspoken supporter of Huawei.

Other European countries, like Germany, are consulting with telecom operators before deciding whether to exclude Huawei. The government reportedly wants to avoid excluding the Chinese company from Germany’s 5G networks, according to German media outlet Handelsblatt, which cited anonymous government sources. – South China Morning Post

SCMP , Tech , Huawei , 5G