The Huawei dilemma threatens over Vodafone and threatens many plans associated with the fifth generation of mobile networks in the United Kingdom. As authorities ponder the possibility of forcing the wireless carrier to not only drop its collaboration with the Chinese electronics giant but also get rid of all existing Huawei-made equipment powering its network, Vodafone Chief Technology Officer Scott Petty went on record to assert such a move would not only cause irreparable damage to the London-based firm but also cripple the UK’s ambition to be on the bleeding edge of telecom tech.
No real reason to be worried… for now
Mr. Petty’s comments weren’t outright pro-Huawei so much as they were targeted against any notion of imposing a ban on equipment used in already existing infrastructure. Their timing is also rather telling seeing how the industry veteran is kind of late to the Huawei-in-the-centre-of-the-public-discourse party and could have done more to echo his message within the government’s ranks had he offered them sooner.
British authorities spent the majority of the last twelve months probing the Chinese firm and its technologies employed by domestic wireless carriers following troublesome findings from security experts, yet not even credible cybersecurity concerns unrelated to Huawei’s home country — a factor crucial to the criticism it faces from the United States — arose as part of a routine state-sponsored report.
Instead, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport recently recommended the British wireless segment and London officials with say in such things to work on limiting reliance on Huawei networking gear. Naturally, that turn of events can hardly be seen as a win by the Chinese firm yet it’s a far cry from countries that are codifying political opposition to its technologies, publicly attacking them on a regular basis, and working on jailing their top executives.
Far from the far-from-blameless image
None of that is to say the bizarre case of Meng Wanzhou is in any way related to Huawei’s 5G ambitions and its existing global dominance, though that’s the exact angle being pushed by the Far Eastern firm; the story goes something like “the U.S. is afraid of Huawei being too good to compete with and wants to ban it before its companies go out of business trying to rival the unrivallable.”
The other side of the story involves a string of suspicions and allegations covering decades’ worth of (occasionally comically bad) corporate espionage, a fundamental lack of respect for any norms not enacted by Beijing, and outright hostile actions against any potential rivals.
A British stronghold
Huawei remains deeply entrenched into the UK wireless market but as its highly public stand-off with the U.S. continues, so do its chances of getting kicked out of many other lucrative markets keep increasing. For now, the firm has some solace in the fact that close to a third of Vodafone’s 4G LTE installations use its tech and it’s bound to play some kind of a role in early British rollout efforts targeting 5G due to the very nature of the non-standalone 3GPP standard – that name says it all, really.
That doesn’t mean Vodafone isn’t worried about “hundreds of millions” in extra costs and other “dramatic” ramifications of a potential order to ditch Huawei gear, as Mr. Petty put it this week. The current situation certainly doesn’t bode well for Huawei’s future plans for the UK, a country wherein it’s already investing literal billions in grants and other financial vehicles, many of which aren’t even directly benefitting its business.