This year seems to have picked up from where 2018 left off for Huawei Technologies, with more countries lining up to effectively block use of the Chinese vendor’s equipment in 5G networks. This time it is Germany’s turn.
According to a report in German broadsheet Handelsblatt, the German government is actively considering stricter security requirements and other ways to exclude Huawei equipment from the country’s 5G networks. The paper noted that the government will not and cannot ban certain companies from the German market. Instead, it is discussing setting security standards that Huawei could not achieve, effectively blocking its participation.
Changes to the German telecommunications law were also under consideration, Handelsblatt added. Germany’s BDI industry association told Reuters that no vendor should be excluded from 5G if there is no evidence against them.
It has been previously reported that senior German officials were attempting to convince their government to prevent German telecom operators from using Huawei equipment.
Ren Zhengfei, the founder of Huawei, has been rigorously defending his company, saying Huawei had never received a request from a government to transmit information in violation of any regulations. According to Handelsblatt, he also told journalists that he loved his country and supported the Communist Party, “but I would never do anything that would harm another country in the world.”
Rotating Huawei Chairman Guo Ping also recently stated that the company has signed 26 commercial 5G contracts with global carriers, and it has shipped more than 10,000 5G base stations to markets around the world.
So it seems that mobile operators are not necessarily abandoning Huawei in their droves. Indeed, the Financial Times reported that U.K. telecom executives said any move to ban Huawei equipment would set back the launch of 5G by up to one year. That jibes with a recent report from The Wall Street Journal that Ericsson and Nokia have been slow to release telecom equipment that is as advanced as Huawei’s.
O2 UK, for instance, said it still plans to trial Huawei’s 5G equipment in January. In Spain, Vodafone and Orange plan to use equipment from Huawei or its country-mate ZTE in 5G pilots as part of projects submitted to obtain government subsidies. T-Mobile Poland, a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom, has announced the launch of what it described as the “first fully functional” 5G network in the Eastern European country with the support of Huawei. Furthermore, Telefonica signed a deal with Huawei that includes 5G and which was signed off by the Spanish government during a state visit to Spain by China’s President Xi Zinping.
Despite these bright spots, the environment is becoming increasingly hostile for Huawei in a growing number of countries, including Australia, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S.
The Wall Street Journal is also reporting that U.S. federal prosecutors are looking at a criminal investigation of Huawei tied to the vendor stealing trade secrets from U.S. partners. That investigation is tied to past lawsuits filed by U.S.-based companies – including T-Mobile US – that claimed Huawei employees had stolen proprietary technology from those companies.