Vodafone chief says Huawei scrutiny could ‘severely’ hold Europe back

11 Dec 2019

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Vodafone CEO Nick Read said that the exclusion of Huawei’s 5G infrastructure could be more detrimental to Europe than any other region.

Vodafone CEO Nick Read has said that Europe is the “only region that’s severely held back” by attempts to exclude Huawei from the global roll-out of 5G networks.

Speaking at a Vodafone 5G event in Brussels, which was attended by members of the European Parliament and Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri, Read urged European nations to consider who suffers the most when Huawei is blacklisted.

Pointing to the US ban on Huawei, Read said the US has very little to lose by excluding the Chinese telecoms giant because its technology is not deployed “in any large scale in any of their networks”.

Meanwhile, China, which is Huawei’s domestic market, benefits from the company’s research and development of 5G technology.

‘This is competitive’

The Vodafone boss warned that European technology jobs could be at risk if companies aren’t allowed to take a “vendor agnostic” approach to 5G, Mobile World Live reported.

“This is competitive. We have to strengthen our ICT and digital capabilities to enable our fantastic leading manufacturing and research and development base,” Read said.

“We have to enable in this window of opportunity to compete against the US and China, or the moment goes. Then, in the end, jobs and the opportunities will move to the US and China. Let’s make sure we don’t hold back 5G.”

Adding that 5G is enabling Industry 4.0, the CEO said: “If we want to compete against China and the US we need a range of diverse technology.”

This is not the first time that Read has spoken out about the potential impact of Huawei bans. In February of this year, the CEO said that by having just two competitors in Europe’s 5G market – Ericsson and Nokia – industry and infrastructure could be left in an “unhealthy position”.

China’s relationship with Huawei

While the Vodafone boss spoke out against Huawei’s naysayers, the Chinese company found itself involved in another controversy this week.

According to the Danish newspaper Berlingske, a meeting was held between the Chinese ambassador to Denmark, Feng Tine, and the tiny European state of the Faroe Islands, where it was suggested that if Huawei was not given the contract to operate 5G on the islands, then a free trade agreement could fall apart.

A spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry said that the Berlingske article was “false and ill-defined.”

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic