Huawei’s hopes of providing 5G technology to the UK marketplace have taken a significant blow, following a shot across the bows from rival manufacturer Ericsson.
The Swedish telecoms giant has said it would be capable of replacing all Huawei’s 5G infrastructure within the UK, if the government decided to follow America’s lead and impose sanctions on its Chinese rivals.
Huawei has been dogged by claims for a number of years that it harvests data for the Chinese government – despite the company’s strong and repeated denials. America has enforced strong restrictions on Huawei and the UK is expected to follow suit, despite originally granting Huawei permission to be included in the nationwide 5G roll out.
Supporters of Huawei note the cost and difficulty of changing hardware that is already in place around the UK – especially given that its devices are smaller and easier to install than those of its rivals. Changing to different equipment, they say, would not only cost a huge sum of money but also delay the roll out further still, when other nations are already outpacing the UK.
However, this last line of defence could soon fall, with Ericsson now claiming it is very much ready to replace Huawei stock; all it needs is the government’s go ahead.
The Swedish manufacturer has the credentials to back up these claims. Across Europe last year, nine mobile network operators that were switching equipment chose to use Ericsson – with only one going for Huawei instead.
Ericsson also conducted 100,000 site swaps last year alone – which is more than double the total number of UK sites combined.
The company’s president for Europe, Arun Bansal, put it another way: “Globally we shift more radio base stations per day than would be needed to swap the entirety of London.”
It’s a compelling argument from Ericsson – and one that has been carefully timed, with the government already under pressure to make a decision or risk falling further behind other nations.
The decision makers certainly have much to think about, especially considering Huawei’s latest pledge to invest £1 billion into a brand new research centre in Cambridgeshire, creating 400 jobs in the process.
There’s certainly much to weigh up – and the technological capabilities appear to be just one small part.