Despite the US calling on its allies to ban Huawei from the West’s 5G network, France is due to authorise the use of some the Chinese tech giants equipment in the rollout of its 5G network, according to two Reuters sources close to the matter.
Huawei spying concerns
Huawei, the world’s biggest producer of telecoms equipment, are currently being accused by the US of being a national security threat and a spy for Beijing. As well as banning Huawei from supplying 5G infrastructure to the US telecom market, the US is calling on its allies to do the same - pitting America against China in what has essentially become a 5G war, where Europe is a commodity sought by both.
This exclusive news of France authorising some Huawei gear comes at a time when the French cybersecurity agency, ANSSI, is due to tell telecoms operators which equipment they are allowed to use to roll-out their 5G networks. It’s decision is yet to be made public.
Keeping Huawei away from the core
Speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, the sources said ANSSI had decided to approve the use of Huawei gear, but only for what they described as non-core parts of the network.
“They don’t want to ban Huawei, but the principle is: ‘Get them out of the core mobile network’,” one of the two sources said. Keeping Huawei away from the core and allowing a partial role instead is how Britain has approached the security concerns around using the companies’ gear – the core of the network contains personal and sensitive data.
Two of France’s telecoms operators, Bouygues Telecom and Altice Europe’s SFR have about half of their current mobile network made by Huawei – so the French authorities’ decision over Huawei’s equipment is crucial for them. Orange has already chosen Nokia and Ericsson over Huawei.
ANSSI was due to give the first results of the screening of the 5G telecoms gear about a month ago. According to a Reuters source this was delayed because the agency asked operators additional questions in December.
Huawei 5G mobile base station
At the end of last month, Huawei chairman, Liang Hua, announced that the Chinese technology giant will build its first European 5G manufacturing plant in France.
It seems that this was a smart strategic move by Huawei and the €200 million investment in the first phase of setting up its new 5G mobile base station plant in France could well have eased the US’s spying allegations, which it has always strongly denied.