France Plans 5G Launch For Next Year In Spite Of Trade Turmoil

France has said it does not plan to rule out using any particular vendor in building out its 5G networks, after the US placed China’s Huawei on a trade blacklist, while the country’s telecoms regulator said it expected its 5G rollout to proceed next year as planned.

French finance minister Bruno Le Maire said on Tuesday the country would make decisions based on security and network performance.

“We want to carry out a careful control of this 5G deployment… without designating an operator as unwelcome in France,” Le Maire said at a press event, Reuters reported.

“We will take decisions based on technological interest and the strategic security of our networks.”

French finance minister Bruno Le Maire. Image credit: French government

Launch in 2020

He said he did not believe Huawei was the only option on 5G and had met with the president of Ericsson to discuss alternatives.

Sebastian Soriano, the head of France’s Arcep telecoms regulator, said the US’ Huawei ban would have a “limited impact”, saying no major French telecoms operator relied solely on Huawei equipment.

“We are aiming for a commercial launch of 5G in 2020,” he said.

France’s president Emmanuel Macron said last week the country did not aim to block Huawei or any other company.

“France and Europe are pragmatic and realistic,” he said.

German chancellor Angele Merkel and Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte made similar remarks to the press, saying they had programmes in place to ensure security and did not find it necessary to bar Huawei.

US blockade

US officials allege that equipment made in China could be used for spying.

The UK is currently reviewing its telecoms policy, with a result expected later this year, but recent leaks indicated the government’s policy would aim to allow Huawei equipment in limited areas of  the country’s telecommunications networks.

Hong Kong-based Asia Times cited two unnamed top European telecoms officials as saying that the US blacklist, which is not set to take effect until August, was unlikely to prevent Huawei from participating in 5G rollouts in Europe and elsewhere.

Following a US parts sales ban to China’s ZTE last year that nearly destroyed the company, Huawei reportedly made efforts to achieve self-sufficiency in chip manufacturing.

Huawei manufacturs its own Kirin chipset for its smartphones, and Nikkei Asian Review and other outlets reported last week that it has stockpiled one year’s inventory of critical components that would normally be imported from US firms.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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