France telecoms market leader, Orange have said they will avoid using equipment from Chinese vendors for 5G in Europe, but they see no issue in working with Huawei in Africa, where the Chinese company dominates as a supplier of equipment to many telecoms operators.
CEO of the company, Stephane Richard said they are opting for suppliers such as Ericsson and Nokia instead to deploy 5G in Europe, but the see Huawei as the best partner in Africa.
“We’re working more and more with Chinese vendors in Africa, not because we like China, but we have an excellent business relationship with Huawei,” CEO Stephane Richard said at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Tuesday. “They’ve invested in Africa while the European vendors have been hesitating.”
European governments have tightened controls on Chinese companies building 5G networks following diplomatic pressure from Washington, which alleges Huawei equipment could be used by Beijing for spying. (Huawei has repeatedly denied being a national security risk.)
Some countries, such as Britain and Sweden, have banned the Chinese vendors outright, while others have encouraged telecoms operators to opt for European suppliers, particularly in the core parts of their networks.
“It’s not only the pressure from the government — we are European citizens and share the concern,” Richard said in an interview. “We can’t ignore the fact that the big Chinese players are close to the Chinese state.”
Ericsson and Nokia have steadily taken market share from Huawei and, late last year, Orange’s Belgian division decided to progressively replace Huawei equipment with kit from Nokia.
The Orange CEO also showed willingness to use gear from Samsung, which he described as an alternative to the “China vs Europe debate”. Samsung signed Vodafone as its first European customer earlier this month as it tries to enter a market dominated by Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei.
“We’ll need time and additional investment to build new standalone networks with multiple vendors,” Richard said. “The fact is that in Europe today developing 5G networks with Chinese vendors is more and more difficult — we take this as a reality.”