After much secrecy, reports suggest that Huawei is no longer able to supply equipment for the core of Dutch 5G networks
Throughout 2020, under political pressure from the US, a number of countries around Europe introduced various levels of sanctions on Huawei.
In January 2020, citing fears over national security, the UK decided to limit Huawei’s position within the nation’s 5G networks, barring them from supplying core equipment and limiting their market share to 35%. However, by July, the UK had increased these measures to a full phase out of Huawei equipment by 2027. Numerous European countries have followed suit, including Sweden and Estonia, while others, like Germany and Italy, have been much slower to act.
In the Netherlands, there has been much debate surrounding Huawei’s future within the country. Two of the country’s three major operators, KPN and T-Mobile, both use a significant amount of Huawei equipment in their networks, hence any potential ban would be highly disruptive. Furthermore, with 5G becoming increasingly politicised, there are geopolitical consequences to any actions against a major Chinese company; the Swedish government, for example, has clashed heavily with the Chinese government following their ban on Huawei.
However, Huawei’s role within the Netherlands was thrown ignominiously into the limelight last month when it was claimed in a media report that Huawei had the potential to eavesdrop on KPN’s network in 2010, potentially compromising the security of calls on the network for the operator’s 6.5 million subscribers.
Huawei has denied having unauthorised access to KPN’s network or data and said that it had, at all times, worked under the explicit authorisation of KPN.
Perhaps spurred by this revelation, the Dutch government has now informed the nation’s trio of operators of specific policies regarding Huawei equipment within their networks. However, specifics of these requirements are being held under lock and key, with none of the operators legally at liberty to disclose exactly what the government has mandated.
Nonetheless, at least the basic limitations being imposed on Huawei are starting to become clear. Speaking to media, a Huawei spokesperson confirmed that they are no longer alowed to supply equipment for the core of Dutch mobile networks.
“We do not supply 5G core equipment in the Netherlands,” a Huawei spokesperson told the Financieele Dagblad. "That’s just where we are in the market."
Huawei are still presumably permitted to supply RAN equipment such as antennas.
This decision will seemingly have the heaviest impact on T-Mobile, who relies on Huawei for the majority of its network. KPN, who also has a substaintial amount of Huawei equipment within their network, has previously announced that it would be replacing its network core with equipment from Ericsson. The least affected will be Vodafone Ziggo, who uses far less Huawei equipment in their networks compared to its rivals.
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