Vodafone’s CEO says that there needs to be a more intelligent discussion around the consequences of banning the Chinese tech giant from Europe’s 5G network

Vodafone’s CEO, Nick Read, has called for the international telecoms community to engage in a more "fact-based conversation" around the potential security risks posed by Chinese tech giant, Huawei. 

Huawei has been subjected to a string of allegations from the US and its allies, who allege that the Chinese technology firm’s 5G network architecture could pose a risk to the national security of countries in which it operates. The US alleges that Huawei’s networks can be used for the purposes of espionage, particularly by the Chinese government. Huawei’s detractors are yet to provide any evidence to corroborate these allegations. 

"Specifically, on Huawei, what I would really like to make clear is, I think we need to move to a more fact-based conversation. I think at the moment it is at a simplistic, political level," he said in a recent interview. 

Read was critical of the political motivations surrounding the Huawei security debate and stressed that his company was happy to continue working with the Chinese tech giant on its 5G rollout, despite recent reports that it was pausing Huawei’s involvement with Vodafone’s core in Europe. 

"There is a big distinction between radio and core, we are predominantly using Huawei in radio. We are continuing to use them in radio for 5G. However, in the core, we have put them on pause. 

"They are not significant in the scale of our operations in the core. Therefore, there is not a big financial implication, though if we were having to replace them in the core, that would take a couple of years to execute. 

Read warned against a comprehensive ban of Huawei in Europe, saying that it would create financial nightmare for telcos across the continent.  

"Clearly, if there were a complete ban at radio level, then it would be a huge issue for us, but it would be a huge issue for the whole European telco sector. Huawei probably has 35 per cent of the market share through the whole of Europe. So, I think that is a totally different consideration, but we now need to make it a lot more fact-based conversation, and I think you are going to see more and more operators doing that. We are putting the core on pause, we are not replacing at this stage. 

"Now is the moment to engage with the security agencies, with politicians and with Huawei to improve everyone’s understanding,” he added.

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