After a bad start to its 5G year, Nokia is starting to reel in new contracts, some at the expense of Huawei, as more European governments impose restrictions, or at least hint at them.
Last week, Nokia won deals with two Belgian operators, Orange and Proximus, which actually share a common network following a RAN sharing deal signed in 2019. The pair look set to rip out Huawei gear, with Reuters sources saying that they made the decision partly because of US pressure on Brussels, and partly because of fears about Huawei’s future ability to supply kit, if its own supply chains are disrupted by sanctions.
The Chinese firm has worked with Orange Belgium for 13 years and Proximus for 11, so in normal times, this would have seemed a hard account for a newcomer to penetrate. Proximus has also selected Ericsson for its 5G core – the first major win for the Swedish firm in Belgium.
The clouds are darkening for Huawei in Europe. Germany has stopped short of an outright ban but is set to introduce a new cybersecurity law that is likely to make it very tough to work with a Chinese supplier, and France is reportedly planning a ban on introducing Huawei kit to 5G, and an edict to replace existing equipment by 2028.
And there is speculation that the UK could bring forward the 2027 deadline for operators to replace Huawei equipment, by two years, following the publication of a report by Parliament’s Defence Committee, which says there is “clear evidence of collusion” between Huawei and the Chinese government.
Huawei’s relationship with the CCP has been at the heart of fears that its 5G equipment might contain spyware, but the vendor has denied all such claims – and no proof has been produced in the USA, UK or elsewhere. The parliamentary enquiry decided there is a link based on testimony from academics, cybersecurity experts, and telecoms industry insiders, while Huawei did not reportedly testify.
Huawei said the report “lacked credibility, as it is built on opinion rather than fact”.