France has told telecoms operators planning to buy Huawei 5G network equipment that they won’t be able to renew licences for the gear once they expire, effectively phasing the Chinese technology firm out of mobile networks, Reuters reported.
United States says Huawei’s telecom equipment could be used by the Chinese government for espionage. United Kingdom has already banned Huawei equipment from its 5G network.
France’s cybersecurity agency ANSSI said this month it would allow mobile operators to use equipment, including Huawei’s, under licences of three to eight years. It was urging telecoms not currently using the Chinese company’s gear to avoid switching to it.
Operators must each apply for dozens of licences for equipment to cover different parts of the country.
ANSSI had informed operators of most licence decisions for large cities. They said the bulk of authorisations for Huawei gear were for three or five years, while most of those for equipment from European rivals Ericsson or Nokia received eight-year licences.
ANSSI’s decisions have not been made public, either by the agency or by the companies.
Operators had also been told by French authorities during informal conversations in recent months, not stated formally in documents, that licences granted for Huawei equipment would not be renewed thereafter.
A spokesman for the prime minister’s office, which oversees the permissions on 5G equipment, said ANSSI was working with operators within the legal framework, adding that any authorisation granted at present did not impinge on whether these would later be renewed or interrupted.
Such restrictions would amount to a de facto phase-out of Huawei within France’s 5G networks by 2028, given the short time-frame of the licenses.
French operators might still manage to get an eight-year authorisation for Huawei equipment in some cases, and could yet decide to use its gear for that time period, the sources said. But even this meant eventually dismantling it.
It would be difficult for a telecom operator to take the risk of investing in Huawei gear, given 5G takes at least eight years to yield a return on investment. “Granting three years amounts to a flat refusal,” the person added.
An effective ban would be particularly troublesome for Bouygues Telecom and Altice Europe’s SFR, the two French telecom operators that already use Huawei’s equipment in their current mobile network.
The new authorisations for 5G network equipment are linked to existing 4G gear – meaning that if an operator opts for a different supplier for 5G, it would also have to replace its existing 4G infrastructure.
Orange and Iliad, mainly rely on Nokia, Ericsson or both for their mobile networks.