With another year comes another slew of problems for China-based vendors Huawei and ZTE. Last year was a rough year for both. And while this year started with them touting their successes in 5G testing, the two vendors still have quite the fight ahead of them if the first few weeks of 2019 are any indication.
Earlier this week it was reported that GSMA Director Mats Granryd was putting together a meeting on the sidelines of the upcoming MWC event in Barcelona, Spain, to discuss recent government bans on the use of Huawei equipment in 5G networks. This could be a sign of diminishing support from the trade association, which could impact Huawei’s public image.
In an email to SDxCentral, Gareth Davies, communications director for the GSMA, explained that the reports of the meeting were “not strictly true.” Davies noted that the meeting in question is regularly scheduled.
“Ahead of every MWC event the GSMA Board Members meet to discuss topics pertinent to the industry such as its industry programs, etc,” Davies wrote, adding that he couldn’t yet share the agenda for the meeting as it hasn’t been finalized.
Huawei has faced a number of challenges in recent months.
Last year, the U.S. government started putting in place legislation that would ban the use of both Huawei and ZTE equipment in the country. The U.S. then began putting pressure on its allies, namely Italy and Japan, to exclude Huawei telecom equipment from their 5G networks. The Australian government imposed a ban on both Huawei and ZTE in August, barring them from providing 5G equipment to the country’s telecommunications providers. New Zealand has also banned the vendor.
It has long been reported that Germany has also been considering similar bans. This week, Reuters reported that German ministers were meeting to discuss how to secure future 5G networks and consider a ban on Huawei. According the report, another option would to be to impose tough security standards rather than ban Chinese equipment entirely.
Britain is another country considering bans. The Chinese vendor has long been monitored by the government. Last year, the British government filed a report with the company addressing some of its security concerns with Huawei. This week, Huawei responded to these claims with a letter to the House of Commons Committee. In the letter the company said that it would work with the U.K. to address the claims, but that it could take three to five years.
In addition, Bloomberg reported that a ban from the Canadian government is likely underway. The report notes that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appears to be delaying the decision to bar Huawei from its 5G networks to avoid jeopardizing three Canadian detainees in China. The country is currently running a security review of 5G networks, and expects that a decision might be a ways off. Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada at the request of the U.S. government late last year.
One thing that Huawei is doing in an attempt to appease some of these governments is set up information security labs. These labs are meant to build confidence that its equipment doesn’t contain security threats or back doors that would expose networks to spies and additional threats. The vendor has already opened labs in both Germany and Britain, and this week it offered to open one in Poland if the authorities will allow it, as Poland considers its own ban.
As governments scramble to make decisions regarding Huawei, some operators have already chosen sides. BT said in January that it will avoid the use of Huawei equipment in the core of its 5G network. Vodafone recently said it would suspend purchases of Huawei’s networking equipment. Deutsche Telekom has been reviewing its purchases of the vendor, and it recently carried out an internal assessment of removing Huawei from its networks.
New Laws From the U.S.
In the U.S., a new bill was introduced by lawmakers this week that could reimpose sanctions on ZTE. This would occur if ZTE fails to meet U.S. laws and an agreement that was made last year with the Trump administration. President Donald Trump lifted the previous ban on the vendor last July, and allowed the vendor to resume work in the country. This lift was a result of the continuing trade war between the U.S. and China, and was likely used as leverage.
The latest bill would reimpose sanctions on ZTE and expand those sanctions to additional companies – including Huawei – that are caught violating U.S. sanctions.
Similar action was teased back in December when Reuters reported that President Trump might declare a national emergency that would ban U.S. companies from buying equipment from either Chinese vendor.
A Silver Lining of Support
While things may look particularly bleak for Huawei, there are a few items going its way.
Deutsche Telekom and other European wireless service providers have warned that Huawei is ahead of rivals such as Ericsson and Nokia when it comes to the maturity and readiness of its 5G equipment. Meaning that a full ban could delay the launch of 5G by at least two years if its equipment is entirely removed.
In addition, the Polish Deutsche Telekom subsidiary T-Mobile Poland recently launched its own 5G network in the country using Huawei equipment.
Both Huawei and ZTE also received a boost from Spanish operators earlier this year. Both Vodafone and Orange in Spain said they would use one or both of the equipment vendors in 5G pilots.
And just this week, Turkish mobile operator Turkcell expressed support for Huawei. The operator’s CEO Kaan Terzioglu called the vendor a “reliable business partner” and stated that it would continue its work with the vendor.