American boycott calls against Huawei cast a long shadow, but Europe is not united in its response
Europe gives US-led calls for a boycott of Huawei 5G telecommunications equipment a mixed reception, with some governments not being disturbed by spy guards against the Chinese giant, but others support a ban.
In the last setback for Huawei, Poland said Friday that it had arrested a Chinese telecommandager suspected of espionage for China, with local media identifying him as a Huawei director.
On Saturday, Huawei said it had dismissed the employee who had been arrested in Poland and told AFP that "his alleged actions have no relationship with the company".
Huawei had already seen the arrest of the daughter of the company's founder in Canada and the efforts of the US to blacklist the company internationally due to security issues.
Several Asian and Pacific countries have followed Washington's call for a Huawei ban, but the picture in Europe is more nuanced, not least because Huawei's 5G capabilities are so attractive. They are much better than Sweden, Finland, Nokia and South Korea, say analysts.
Fifth generation (5G) technology represents a huge leap forward in the wireless communication speed and will be crucial for the development of the internet of things, including self-driving cars. That is why Europe wants to use it as quickly as possible.
"Operators have looked at alternatives, but have realized that Huawei is currently more innovative and probably better for 5G," said Dexter Thillien, analyst at Fitch Solutions.
– & # 39; Competence & # 39; and & # 39; talent & # 39; –
Huawei has increasingly looked critically at the alleged links with Chinese intelligence services, which not only encouraged the US but also Australia and Japan to make blocking their 5G internet networks impossible.
Staggering wireless speeds are coming closer
But in Europe, the main operator of Portugal, MEO, signed an agreement with Huawei in December during a visit by the Chinese President Xi Jinping, taking into account the know-how, competence, talent and capacity of the Chinese company for technology. to develop and invest in our country & # 39; to praise.
Norway, whose current networks largely consist of Huawei equipment, thinks of ways to reduce its "vulnerability", according to the transport and communications minister of the Nordic country quoted in the local press – especially to countries with whom Oslo "has no security cooperation", an implicit reference to China.
The British Secretary of Defense, Gavin Williamson, said in the meantime that he has "serious, very deep concerns that Huawei is supplying the 5G network in Great Britain".
The Czech cybersecurity agency said the Chinese laws "require private companies with their headquarters in China to cooperate with intelligence services", which could make them "a threat" if they are involved in the main technology of a country.
– & # 39; Last but better & # 39; –
Germany is under pressure from Washington to follow the example, the magazine Der Spiegel reported. But the country's IT watchdog says it has not seen evidence that Huawei could use its equipment to spy to Beijing.
Meanwhile, telecom operators throughout Europe, under heavy pressure to quickly roll out 5G, remove security concerns because the use of Huawei is logical for them.
"Huawei is now much more expensive than its competitors, but it is also much better," said a spokesman for a European operator who was not mentioned due to the sensitive nature of the case. The quality of the Huawei equipment "really comes first" from its European competitors, he added.
Orange will not use Huawei in France, but maybe also elsewhere
Moreover, "everywhere in Europe, operators are the target of enormous operating possibilities in that area and it has never been discovered that the Huawei equipment is at stake".
To increase the confusion, large operators could refuse Huawei equipment in some of their markets, but not in others.
The historic French operator Orange has said that it will not use Huawei networks in France, but it could do very well in Spain and Poland.
– High stakes in Europe –
The German Deutsche Telekom has announced a deal with Huawei for its future 5G network in Poland, but has not said what it will do in Germany itself.
In the meantime, Huawei is making great efforts to prove its good faith. It has opened test laboratories for its equipment in Germany and the United Kingdom, in collaboration with the governments there, and will launch a new one in Brussels by the end of the first quarter.
Huawei complains about – incredibly dishonest treatment & # 39;
The stakes are high: Europe is a crucial market for Huawei, whose combined sales in Europe, the Middle East and Africa represented 27 percent of total group sales in 2017, mainly thanks to the spending of European operators.
Huawei rotating chairman Guo Ping in late December complained that his company was subjected to "incredibly unfair treatment".
"Huawei has never and never posed a security risk," Guo wrote in a New Year's post to the staff.
Some analysts doubt that even a widespread ban on Chinese telecom networks equipment may guarantee a watertight security.
"In Paris alone, there are more than a million Huawei smartphones, so if you want to listen, how many opportunities do you have," said a sector specialist.
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