More important, worries Borje Ekholm, chief executive of Ericsson, a ban on Huawei would slow down the launch of 5G in Europe.
All four bidders already make extensive use of Huawei hardware, such as antennae or routers.
More important, worries Borje Ekholm, chief executive of Ericsson, a ban on Huawei would slow down the launch of 5G in Europe. The continent is already lagging three to four years behind America in 4G, the current generation of wireless technology, he says. Uncertainty over regulation, pricing and, most of all, how to deal with Huawei, is likely to slow Europe down further. European operators are lobbying hard to maintain the choice between three purveyors; many prefer Huawei wares, which are often cheaper (and some say better). The spectre of a Huawei ban is putting a damper on Germany's auction for 5G mobile spectrum that kicked off on March 18th in Mainz. The auction, which drew four big operators, is expected to last several weeks. All four bidders already make extensive use of Huawei hardware, such as antennae or routers. Upgrading to 5G will require splurging on new kit. Huawei wants to be one of their principal suppliers (though it may first need to meet more stringent security requirements which the German government is mulling). In November the Chinese company opened a lab in Bonn, the base of Germany's cyber-security regulator, where its equipment can be tested. Though it is possible to ban Huawei completely from Europe, its biggest market outside of China, industry insiders warn that it would be hugely complex and costly. It would be especially disruptive in countries where Huawei is deeply embedded, such as Italy, Poland and Britain, says Stephane Teral of IHS Markit, a research firm. With only a hint of hyperbole Bengt Nordstrom of Northstream, a consultancy, likens the resulting shock to the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. Most of Europe's roughly 200 operators of mobile networks use Huawei's 4G gear. Asked whether talk of a Huawei ban had any effect on the order books of Ericsson, Mr Ekholm responds that "the candid answer is no". On March 18th TDC, Denmark's biggest telecoms firm, confirmed that it was plumping for Ericsson over Huawei, its current equipment-maker, to build its 5G network. That deal, though, was struck before any concerns over Huawei were ever aired. So far, the entire controversy has been a headache for Mr Ekholm and his counterpart at Nokia, not a gift.
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