MWC 2019: Vodafone Chief Lambasts US Calls To Ban Huawei

Huawei’s battle with US authorities reached the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Monday, with Vodafone chief executive Nick Read holding a press conference to criticise the US’ position on the Chinese firm in Europe.

US officials have called for European countries to ban Huawei from helping build their next-generation networks, a step already taken by Australia and New Zealand.

Read’s comments came amidst a continued US crackdown, with a bipartisan group in the US Senate calling on Monday for the country to block Huawei from supplying parts that could be used in the US power grid to convert solar energy.

Read said banning Huawei in Europe would be “hugely disruptive” to people using countries’ national infrastructure and would delay 5G in Europe for “likely two years”.

Call for facts

“It structurally disadvantages Europe,” said Read.  “Of course, the US don’t have that problem because they don’t put Huawei equipment in.”

Read said that the US had placed pressure on European governments without supplying evidence that, as the US alleges, Huawei equipment could be used in Chinese spying efforts.

The US’ efforts come amidst an increasingly damaging trade war between the US and China.

Huawei has repeatedly denied it poses a security risk.

Read said banning Huawei would effectively reduce the telecoms equipment supply chain from three to two players, with only Nokia and Ericsson left in the game.

The three companies combined account for more than half of the market’s revenues, according to the Dell’Oro Group.

Read, whose company is the world’s second-largest mobile phone operator by subscribers, said such a move would be “unhealthy” for the industry and countries’ national infrastructures.

He called for a “fact-based conversation” with governments and security authorities.

Solar ban

In the US, a group of senators said Huawei should be blocked from supplying solar inverters to the US power grid.

Inverters convert solar power into a form that can be used in US power grids.

“Both large-scale photovoltaic systems and those used by homeowners, school districts, and businesses are equally vulnerable to cyberattacks,” the senators said in a letter, Reuters reported. “Our federal government should consider a ban on the use of Huawei inverters in the United States.”

Senators John Cornyn, Richard Burr, James Risch, Marco Rubio, Tom Cotton, Susan Collins, Ben Sasse, Mitt Romney, Mark Warner, Dianne Feinstein and Angus King signed the letter.

Huawei has already been shut out of some parts of the US telecoms market, and cannot sell its smartphones in the country.

In spite of these limitations Huawei is the world’s largest telecoms equipment maker and the second-largest smartphone maker after Samsung.

The firm has been formally charged by US authorities with conspiring to violate US sanctions on Iran and of stealing technology from a US company.

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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