Swedish telecoms giant Ericsson has reportedly said it would be capable of replacing all of the Huawei equipment in the UK’s 5G network, if the UK government opts to ban the Chinese vendor.
In an interview with Sky News, the company’s president for Europe, Arun Bansal, said Ericsson was not lobbying for its Chinese rival to be banned – but would be capable of meeting the demand if it was.
Earlier this week the US Department of Defence officially declared that Huawei and a number of other Chinese firms, are backed by the Chinese military. The UK meanwhile is currently reviewing Huawei’s status, and officials are undertaking a new security review of the firm.
“Ericsson is not described as a high-risk vendor,” Bansal told Sky News, citing NCSC’s official designation of Huawei, which is currently approved to supply technology for non-core parts of the UK 5G network, with its participation capped at 35 percent.
Huawei is also excluded from critical parts of the network (military sites etc).
Bansal said he wanted Ericsson to succeed in the UK based on the back of its own technology and competitiveness.
“We are not betting our financial plan on the UK government making certain decisions which benefit Ericsson,” he reportedly said, noting the company is winning in many regions without such decisions being in place.
“My hope, not my prediction, but my hope is that with the government’s ambition, we can – as a partner in the ecosystem – make the UK the leading country in 5G,” he reportedly said – noting this would drive forward British industry.
Ericsson’s Bansal called for a decision to be made sooner rather than later as mobile carriers appear to be choosing neither Huawei nor Ericsson equipment as a result of a lack of clarity from the government.
This, he said, was compounding the UK’s performance compared with other European countries in developing new businesses which could take advantage of 5G.
According to Bansal, over the last year Ericsson has been chosen to replace Huawei or Nokia equipment for nine mobile network operators – losing out to the Chinese company only in a single case in the Netherlands.
Asked by Sky News if Ericsson could fill the gap if all mobile networks in the UK were instructed to remove Huawei equipment, Bansal replied: “Absolutely.”
Bansal said the company had been myth-busting some assumptions on the part of British government officials that Ericsson’s technology was in some way behind that of Huawei.
“In the last 12 or 18 months we have done roughly 100,000 site swaps globally. That is more than twice the number of sites across the whole of the UK, so from a supply chain point of view we have that capability,” he reportedly said.
“Globally we shift more radio base stations per day than would be needed to swap the entirety of London,” he added.
In the case that the UK government required Ericsson’s equipment to be manufactured outside of China, Bansal said the company had factories in Estonia and Poland which could meet the UK’s needs.
He noted that China already reserves 90 percent of its domestic market share for domestic vendors, such as Huawei and ZTE.
Ericsson won the other 10 percent and has a factory in the country to produce this equipment.
The United States certainly believes that Ericsson technology presents a viable alternative to that from Huawei.
In February this year, US Attorney General William Barr suggested that the United States and its allies take a ‘controlling stake’ in Ericsson and Nokia to counter Huawei’s dominance of 5G tech.
It should be noted that three of the UK’s largest wireless providers (EE, Vodafone, and Three) have used Huawei kit to build their 5G networks.
The only exception to this is O2, which has instead opted to use 5G equipment from Ericsson and Nokia.
Earlier this month Google’s former CEO and chairman, Eric Schmidt, launched a blunt assessment of Huawei, telling the BBC that the Chinese firm poses challenges to national security and has engaged in unacceptable acts in the past. He also alleged that information from Huawei routers ended up in Chinese government hands.
But Huawei this week has announced it will build a $1.2 billion research facility in Cambridgeshire.
This new “state-of-the-art R&D and manufacturing centre” will be spread over nine acres, and will “focus on researching, developing, and manufacturing optoelectronics products.”
That development came after Huawei earlier this month, touted its commitment to the UK, as it marked 20 years of presence in the British market.
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