The specifications for the upcoming 5G auction will not exclude Huawei, reversing an earlier decision
Over the past year, the US government went on a major diplomatic offensive against China and Huawei, urging countries around the globe to follow their lead and exclude the vendor from their upcoming 5G networks. Some countries followed fairly rapidly, such as the UK, while others like Sweden, have only recently made such a decision.
In South America, however, the decisions have been much less forthcoming. Many of these countries already rely on Huawei heavily for 4G and earlier generations of mobile technology, meaning a move to restrict them would be hugely disruptive. In Brazil, for example, the operators have pushed back against Trump-supporting President Jair Bolsonaro’s government’s discussions of banning the Chinese vendor, even in the wake of the US offering $1 billion in financing if the country were to exclude Huawei. Bolsonaro has yet to make a formal decision on Huawei.
But such a decision was made in the Dominican Republic. Back in November, the country cancelled a project with Huawei and excluded the firm’s equipment from telecoms networks, ports, and airports. In doing so, it was set to become the first Latin American country to blacklist the vendor. The country’s new President, Luis Abinader, was quoted at the time saying “our position on foreign policy is to be on the side of a strategic alliance with the United States”.
Now, however, it seems that statement may no longer be true. The government has now cleared Huawei for participation in the country’s upcoming 5G network, with local sources citing President Abinader as saying the country needs to be “more competitive, dynamic, more connected”.
The decision coincides with the countries plans for its 5G spectrum auction, which will be only the second in Latin America, following from Chile’s lead. The process will tender 700MHz and 3.5GHz spectrum bands and is set to take place at the start of November later this year.
“The implementation of the 5G network will be a great step in the history of the country’s telecommunications development, which will translate into a profound digital transformation,” said the President. “The winning company must implement a 5G-infrastructure deployment with national coverage at the end of five years.”
Some have been hopeful that Joe Biden taking over from Donald Trump as President of the United States could represent a diplomatic softening on China, but the reality is much more nuanced. Biden himself is no softie when it comes to China and only two days ago was filling his China policy team with hard-liners who reflect this view. Nonetheless, he is also set to review the Trump administration’s Clean Network initiative, the joint network programme that saw many nations overseas pressed to exclude Huawei, including the Dominican Republic.
For Huawei itself, this news will be welcomed, although the company’s founder, Ren Zhengfei, said earlier this month that he does not expect the sanctions against Huawei to be reversed under the Biden administration.
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