A senior Chinese diplomat has warned the EU that any moves to exclude Chinese companies such as Huawei from the rollout of 5G networks would be a “self-defeating” action.
Some governments, most notably the US, have long been suspicious of Huawei because of perceived links to the Chinese government. They fear that the company would be obligated to insert backdoors into its equipment that would facilitate state-sponsored espionage and be a threat to national security.
Huawei is effectively frozen out of the US market while Australia has explicitly banned Huawei and ZTE from its 5G deployment.
Similar concerns have been voided by officials and agencies in European countries, with the growing importance of telecoms to society and the imminent arrival of 5G networks increasing scepticism about the use of Chinese kit.
Huawei is a key supplier for operators in the UK and in Europe and has repeatedly denied any such accusations.
Zhang Ming, a Chinese ambassador to the EU, told the Financial Times in an interview that there would be serious consequences for global economic and scientific cooperation should Chinese firms be blocked from participating in 5G rollout. He suggested the security concerns raised by officials were tantamount to slander.
“Someone is sparing no effort to fabricate a security story about Huawei,” he is quoted as saying. “I do not think that this story has anything to do with security.”
Zhang said should artificial impediments be introduced into the market by European member states, the promise of 5G would be significantly diluted and that China would seek a course of dialogue to resolve the issue.
Huawei has repeatedly denied any accusations of wrongdoing or assisting surveillance, pointing out it works with security agencies around the world and that it sells products to more than 500 operators in 170 countries without issue.
Late last year, Huawei’s head of Western Europe said it would “do anything” to be a trusted partner.
There will be little demand among operators for barriers to the use of Huawei kit as this would reduce choice, hinder innovation and increase costs. This includes the UK, where BT, EE, Vodafone and Three are all customers.
To date, Huawei has signed more than 30 commercial 5G contracts and shipped more than 24,000 5G base stations.
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Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.