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Urgent need for EU countries to diversify 5G suppliers, says Commission

Image credit: VanderWolfImages/Dreamstime

The European Commission has prompted EU countries to take urgent action to diversify their 5G suppliers. This comes amid US pressure on the bloc to follow Britain and ban China’s Huawei from 5G networks.

In November last year, the European Union agreed to take a “tough line” on 5G suppliers to reduce cyber-security risks to next-generation mobile networks. Such technology is seen as key to boosting economic growth and competitiveness.

The strategy included reducing countries’ and telecoms operators’ dependency on one supplier. Telecoms equipment maker Huawei competes with Finland’s Nokia and Sweden’s Ericsson.

“Progress is urgently needed to mitigate the risk of dependency on high-risk suppliers, also with a view to reducing dependencies at [European] Union level,” the EU executive said, reporting on the progress made by the 27 EU countries.

“Challenges have been identified in designing and imposing appropriate multi-vendor strategies for individual MNOs [mobile network operators] or at a national level due to technical or operational difficulties,” it added, citing the lack of interoperability or the size of the country as some of the problems.

The Commission also urged 13 EU countries to adopt the foreign direct investments screening mechanism without further delay. The screening is a tool which allows EU governments to intervene in cases of foreign direct investment in strategic assets, particularly if state-controlled or state-financed enterprises are involved.

Meanwhile, in France, officials have informed wireless operators of a de facto ban on using equipment from Huawei Technologies, becoming the latest Western nation to block the Chinese company from its 5G infrastructure. 

ANSSI, France’s national cyber-security agency, told operators this month that it will only grant licenses authorising the use of Huawei equipment for three to eight years (until 2028 at the latest). These licenses will not be renewed once they expire.

Carriers Bouygues Telecom and SFR will likely be pressed to comply with the order as they both sourced 4G tech from the Chinese supplier.

French government officials said as of this week that there would be no blanket ban against Huawei. Authorities, however, have been looking deeply into the risks of data breaches and other security risks. A law went into effect last year that placed telecoms offering 5G under stricter screening processes.

The French government has sought to launch 5G services in urban centres this year. However, the latest decision may delay efforts toward a nationwide network.

At the start of this month, Vodafone and BT executives warned MPs that they require a minimum of five years to remove Huawei equipment from their networks

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