Nokia Wins 5G Contracts In Belgium

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Domino effect? Mobile operators in Belgium have opted to drop Huawei and instead selected Nokia equipment for their 5G networks

Nokia has picked up another win to supply 5G equipment for a European country, in a further blow for Chinese networking giant Huawei Technologies.

Reuters reported that mobile operators Orange and Proximus have selected the Finnish network firm Nokia to help build 5G networks in Belgium, after they dropped Huawei.

It has been a bad week for Huawei, after the British House of Commons defence committee said that its “inquiry found that there is clear evidence of collusion between Huawei and the Chinese state, which supports the decision to remove them from the UK’s networks.”

Image credit: Huawei

Belgian 5G

Huawei rejected the British MPs allegation, but the British government in July officially ordered British mobile operators to remove all Huawei equipment from 5G networks within seven years (by 2027).

It also banned British operators from buying Huawei equipment from the end of this year.

Another British development came when Nokia recently announced it would supply 5G radio equipment to BT, the owner of the UK’s largest mobile operator EE.

But now the decision by Belgian operators to drop Huawei is noteworthy as the Belgian capital Brussels is home to the European Union’s executive body and parliament, which has concerned US intelligence agencies.

“Belgium has been 100 percent reliant on Chinese vendors for its radio networks – and people working at NATO and the EU were making mobile phone calls on these networks,” John Strand, an independent Danish telecoms consultant was quoted by Reuters as saying.

“The operators are sending a signal that it’s important to have access to safe networks.”

Huawei reaction

Huawei reportedly said it accepted the decisions by Orange Belgium and Proximus.

“This is the outcome of a tender organised by operators and the result of the free market,” a Huawei spokesman said.

“We embrace fair competition, the more diversified a supply chain the more competitive it becomes,” he said, adding Huawei had been supplying equipment in Belgium for more than a decade and its commitment remained unchanged.

European countries

While Huawei is locked out of the UK, it is hoping to sell its equipment in other European countries.

But there have been challenges along the way.

It was reported last month that Germany is aiming for tougher oversight of Huawei, but stopped short of an outright ban, as part of its strategy to handle ‘high risk vendors’.

Against opposition from local operators, instead of an outright ban, some experts feel that Germany effectively aims to strangle Huawei in red tape.

France meanwhile is reportedly considering informally excluding the Chinese vendor.

In July it was reported that major Portuguese telcos (NOS, Altice and Vodafone) will not use Huawei kit for their 5G networks.

This is despite the fact that Portugal’s government has issued no official guidance on the matter and has not banned 5G equipment from the Chinese networking giant.

Huawei has also been sidelined in Norway, after Telenor confirmed last December that it has picked Sweden’s Ericsson as the key technology provider for its fifth-generation (5G) telecoms network in Norway.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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