According to sources, the government has blocked Swisscom’s Italian arm, Fastweb, from signing a 5G core network deal with Chinese vendor Huawei
Sources suggest that the Italian government has blocked telco Fastweb from signing a deal with Huawei regarding 5G core network equipment. One anonymous source said that Fastweb was overly reliant on the company and had been asked to “diversify its suppliers”.
Italy has been a hot topic for Huawei recently, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visiting the country at the end of last month to discuss network security and urge the country to ban Huawei. Until now, Italy has been reluctant to take a side in the ongoing geopolitical battle between Huawei and the US government, though Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio has said that members of the government “fully realise the responsibility faced by every country when dealing with security”.
In response to Pompeo’s visit, President of Huawei Italy, Luigi De Vecchis, reiterated that the Chinese company was not a threat to national security and said that they were open to inspection.
“We will open our insides, we are available to be vivisected to respond to all of this political pressure,” he said.
However, despite these assurances, the unprecedented vetoing of the deal with Fastweb would suggest that the Italian government is moving closer to placing legal restrictions on Huawei. Chinese media have been quick to suggest that this move does not necessarily represent a hardened stance against Huawei, with the Global Times noting the close economic ties between Italy and China.
"Italy’s reported move is more a result of its domestic political chaos rather a hostile attitude toward Huawei," industry analyst Ma Jihua told the Global Times. "It has been friendly with China."
However, it is hard to see this move by the Italian government as anything other than a prelude to stricter controls, especially given the national dominoes that appear to be falling for Huawei throughout the rest of Europe.
On Friday, Bulgaria reportedly joined North Macedonia and Kosovo in signing up for the US’ ‘Clean Network’ initiative, a security agreement that will see them exclude numerous Chinese companies from their 5G networks. This announcement arrived just a few days after Sweden announced it would be banning Huawei and ZTE from the Nordic nation’s upcoming 5G network.