You are here
Huawei controversy opens field for 5G challengers worldwide
WITH growing pressure to keep China's Huawei out of 5G network development, it could be time for firms like Japan's NEC and South Korea's Samsung to shine.
Washington has pushed allies to bar Huawei, a Chinese telecom giant, from building next-generation 5G mobile networks, claiming that its equipment can be used to spy for Beijing.
Huawei denies the charges, but US pressure has prompted an about-turn in Britain. The government had already pledged to cut the firm out of the most sensitive "core" elements of 5G that access personal data, and is now reportedly pushing for plans to end Huawei's involvement in Britain's 5G infrastructure by 2023.
But excluding Huawei is not without challenges, because there are currently only two alternatives in Europe for 5G equipment such as antennas and relay masts: Finland's Nokia and Sweden's Ericsson.
Britain has encouraged Washington to form a club of 10 democratic nations that could develop its own 5G technology, but there has been little movement so far.
"The vast majority of the commercial networks sold in the world come from the big three," said Sylvain Chevallier, in charge of telecoms at BearingPoint consultancy, referring to Huawei, Nokia and Ericsson. That leaves a tempting potential opening for telecoms firms like Samsung and NEC.
But building a successful 5G network is no simple task. That is a lesson Samsung has learned. Despite being a major player in 3G, it found itself unable to compete with the big three on 4G and struggled to win commercial contracts. In building its 5G network, Samsung has so far focused on North America and parts of the Asia-Pacific region.
"So while operators may feel uncertain about Samsung Networks, they are much further along in the process of being a global presence than NEC," said Daryl Schoolar, a mobile technology specialist at consulting group Omdia.
Britain's government has reportedly asked both NEC and Samsung to take part in demonstrations as it looks to diversify its 5G options.
Washington has backed the use of non-proprietary technology like Open RAN in 5G development, hoping it will provide an entry point for US firms. Such a move would open up opportunities for NEC. AFP