After the U.S. government warned European nations numerous times that the use of Huawei networking equipment poses a security risk, now it appears Huawei is hoping to alleviate those fears with new plans to build a 5G manufacturing facility in France.
According toReuters, at a recent press conference, Huawei Technologies Chairman Liang Hua said Huawei is looking to invest 200 million euros (172 million pounds) to build a mobile base station plant that would create 500 new jobs and supply not just France, but the entire European market with 5G networking equipment.
A couple of weeks ago, the U.S. Justice Department announced that it would unseal indictments against Huawei alleging that the company had conspired to steal trade secrets, commit wire fraud and violate racketeering laws. In response, Huawei claims the charges bought against the company are unfounded and are merely protectionist moves meant to help U.S. businesses while disparaging Huawei.
Despite urges to the contrary, major European allies to the U.S. including the UK and Germany have stopped short of completely banning the use of Huawei networking equipment, allowing local wireless operators to continue using Huawei gear in some capacity.
At the press conference, Liang claimed: “This site will supply the entire European market, not just France’s, our group’s activities are worldwide and for this we need a global industrial footprint.”
However, just because Huawei wants to build a factory in France, it’s currently unclear what impact that might have over potential security concerns. While Huawei mentioned the creation of job, it did not explicitly mentioned any changes to its core 5G tech and its uncertain if French President Emmanuel Macron has signed off on the plan.
As a matter of policy, France says it will not discriminate against any equipment vendors based on country of origin. However, France does require all suppliers to be screened and vetted by its cybersecurity agency, which is scheduled to check out Huawei’s tech. According to Reuters, sources in the French telecom industry are worried that Huawei equipment will be barred from used even if a formal ban doesn’t happen.
With the increasing need for faster wireless networks, 5G technology has quickly become a battleground for many countries and multi-national companies as they seek to upgrade infrastructure and promote economic growth.
While France does not have any live 5G networks at the moment, local carriers have already started preparing for the switch with France’s largest carrier Orange having already committed to using 5G equipment from Huawei’s European rivals Nokia and Ericsson in its network.
However, smaller carriers like Altice and Bouygues tend to be more price sensitive, which makes Huawei’s 5G tech more attractive, especially since a large part of the two carriers' existing 4G network is powered by Huawei gear.
So while the U.S. may have hoped to convince its allies overseas to shut Huawei out of Europe, even though Huawei plans to build a new factory have not been approved, it seems Huawei is slowly turning the tide and will at least main some semblance of a foothold in Europe.
Featured photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)