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Huawei says proposed EU ban on its 5G equipment is unlawful, will ‘distort’ the market

  • The Financial Times reported that the EU was considering a ban on its members using equipment that might pose a security risk in 5G networks

  • Chinese vendors had supplied more than 50 per cent of the 5G equipment in 31 European countries as of the end of 2022

By Iris Deng

June 8, 2023

The Huawei logo is displayed on a smartphone screen. Photo: Shutterstock Images

Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies Co hit back at a potential ban by the European Union (EU) on the company’s 5G products, saying it was unfair and unlawful to politicise technology assessments.

The reported EU plan is “not in the interests of any party”, a Huawei Europe spokesperson said in an emailed statement on Thursday, adding that it “strongly opposes” the politicisation of cybersecurity evaluations, which the company said violated the principles and laws of the EU and its member states.

“Exclusions based on non-technical judgments also pose serious economic and social risks. It would hamper innovation and distort the EU market, driving up the costs of digital services for consumers,” the spokesperson said.

“Throughout our time in Europe, there is no record showing back doors in our equipment.”

The Shenzhen-based company’s complaint came after the Financial Times reported on Wednesday that the EU was considering a mandatory ban on its members using equipment from companies that might pose a security risk in 5G networks, including Huawei.

In 2020, Brussels recommended that member states ban or restrict Huawei in their 5G telecoms networks, but only one third of EU countries have followed through, the Financial Times said, citing the EU’s internal market commissioner Thierry Breton.

Given the time needed to pass new laws, the proposed ban is unlikely to take effect before 2024, when the term of the current European Commission ends, the Financial Times reported. If the EU goes ahead with the ban, it would deal a fresh blow to Huawei in a region that has worked closely with Chinese telecoms vendors on building 5G networks amid pressure from the US not to do so.

Chinese vendors had supplied more than 50 per cent of the 5G equipment in 31 European countries as of the end of 2022, according to a study by Copenhagen-based telecoms consultancy Strand Consult.

Germany, Europe’s biggest economy and China’s largest trade partner in the EU, acquired 59 per cent of its 5G equipment from Chinese vendors, and Huawei enjoyed a higher market share in Berlin than it did in Beijing, where it has to compete with crosstown rival ZTE and other vendors, the report showed.

Other major European economies, including Italy, Poland, Portugal, Austria and Spain, have also continued to buy significant amounts of Chinese 5G kit, according to the study.

Huawei has been involved in Europe’s 5G roll-out from the beginning. In 2019, nearly 60 per cent of the company’s 50 global 5G commercial contracts were signed with European operators.

However, the continent has faced increased pressure from the US after Washington put Huawei on a trade blacklist in 2019, followed by a series of moves including bans on the use of Chinese 5G technology in the US, as well as trade restrictions that cut the firm off from advanced chips.

Washington has been lobbying its allies to join the US boycott of Chinese 5G technology, with Five Eyes countries including Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand following suit in banning the Chinese firm in their 5G networks.

European countries have been taking different approaches to Huawei’s 5G technology, but some EU members have recently stepped up their scrutiny of the firm.

In March, the German government was reported to be considering removing the two Chinese companies from its 5G networks, according to local media Zeit Online, citing government sources.

Last month, the Financial Times reported that Portugal was also looking to ban some Chinese 5G gear, including Huawei’s, in a potential policy U-turn.

Canada bans Huawei and ZTE 5G equipment, orders removal by 2024

The UK, along with Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, have banned Huawei from their 5G networks.

Nonetheless, the company is trying to maintain its presence in the European market. In March, it partnered with Spanish operator Cellnex to deploy microwave Long-Reach E-band backhaul in Poland, a technology that helps accelerate 5G roll-out.

Last year, Huawei worked with local partners to build Europe’s first 5G smart railway hub in Hungary, where the company’s largest European logistics centre is located.

While privately-held Huawei does not disclose detailed revenue breakdowns in its financial results, it said sales in the Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) region grew 13.5 per cent to 149 billion yuan (US$20.9 billion) in 2022, which accounted for nearly a quarter of total revenue.

Before the US sanctions, the EMEA regi


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