Britain is moving forward toward granting Huawei a limited role in the UK’s future 5G network, despite U.S. calls for a complete ban, Reuters reported today.
“The officials proposed barring Huawei from the sensitive, data-heavy “core” part of the network and restricted government systems, closely mirroring a provisional decision made last year under former Prime Minister Theresa May,” Reuters reported.
The news wasn’t much better on Monday when the European Union announced that it won’t explicitly ban Huawei when it unveils its 5G guidelines for member states. While the EU has limited control over each country, its announcement probably is a harbinger of the prevailing European sentiments.
In Germany, for example, officials debating whether to allow Huawei to build its 5G network are between a rock and a hard place. If they don’t ban Huawei, they face threatened tariffs against German carmakers from the United States, but they may lose the Chinese market for those same cars they do.
“For months, German lawmakers have danced around the issue of whether to effectively exclude Huawei from the bidding process. The issue is expected to be debated in Parliament again in the coming weeks,” according the New York Times.
But there has been movement forward for Huawei. This week, Morocco announced it will upgrade to the 5G network using Huawei equipment, according to Ecofin Agency.
British business minister Andrea Leadsom bemoaned the lack of alternative infrastructure providers in an interview with Reuters, but Steve Papa, CEO, Parallel Wireless, has pointed out that open radio access networks (ORAN) will increase that competition.
“Operators need more competition in their supply chains, promoting more innovation, and reducing the cost of improving rural 4G and rolling-out 5G,” Papa said in a prepared release. “Operators in Europe have already seen the value in [the ORAN] approach. Vodafone is planning to put its entire European network up for tender to technology suppliers that can enable more open networks. This is a good opportunity for the UK’s telecoms industry to re-evaluate the technology it is using and change the economics of delivering connectivity to their customers.”
U.S. Legislation Would Boost Open RAN
Meanwhile, bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation this week to invest $1 billion in Western-based alternatives to Chinese equipment providers Huawei and ZTE. The bill said Huawei and ZTE, which are heavily subsidized by the Chinese government, pose threats to U.S. economic and national security, and U.S. efforts to establish a global boycott failed because of a “lack of viable, affordable alternatives.”
“Every month that the U.S. does nothing, Huawei stands poised to become the cheapest, fastest, most ubiquitous global provider of 5G, while U.S. and Western companies and workers lose out on market share and jobs,” said Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA). “It is imperative that Congress address the complex security and competitiveness challenges that Chinese-directed telecommunication companies pose.”
The bill, known as the Utilizing Strategic Allied (USA) Telecommunications Act, would attempt to encourage development of an open-architecture model that would allow for alternative vendors to enter the market for specific network components, rather than having to compete with Huawei end-to-end.
“This bill, which will supply the U.S. government with resources to help the private sector create viable 5G alternatives from all ends of the supply chain, is a long overdue step in the right direction. As I’ve said over and over again, confronting China is not the same as being competitive with China. It is time we do just that,” said Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.