European mobile operators EE, Vodafone, and BT have now reportedly decided not to carry Huawei devices, citing concerns about support over the lifecycle of the smartphones as uncertainty lingers stemming from sanctions imposed by the US.
EE, representing the largest company and expected to cover as many as 50 regions of the UK by 2020, has effectively put a "pause" on every Huawei device — halting sales of new gadgets. Its relatively smaller competitors have explicitly stated they won't be carrying any 5G devices from the company, for the time being. Specifically, Vodafone has announced a reversal of plans to open up pre-orders for the Huawei Mate 20 X (5G).
The changes appear to chiefly affect the sale of the OEM's smartphones in the UK but it isn't out of the question for other regions to see similar adjustments made regarding support for the handsets.
Just a small portion of Huawei's trouble
The steady flow of missteps and controversies surrounding the Chinese manufacturer — presently the second largest OEM in the world and among the largest networking equipment suppliers globally — has been well publicized over the past year. Between investigations into the theft of trade secrets and spying concerns expressed by the US government, the embattled company has faced growing opposition over that period.
The latest trouble for Huawei in the UK began with sanctions culminating from those mounting reports, imposed by US President Donald Trump earlier this week via executive order, preventing the company from conducting business with US technology companies. As part of those sanctions, the company lost support from Google in terms of Android OS and updates. Simultaneously, the company's Huawei Mate 20 Pro has been pulled from the search giant's Android Q beta program.
More pertinently, Huawei also lost support from British chip supplier ARM, forcing it to take a more serious look at using its own chip technology and accelerate work on its own operating system. That stacks on top of dropped support from US-based hardware manufacturers such as Qualcomm and Intel.
Carriers in the European region have also begun removing Huawei components from their respective core networks, creating a layer of separation against risks the US has expressed concerns over.
A short-term probationary license was later granted by the US government, allowing Google to provide some relief and the company's work to continue but the length of that term — 90 days — seems to be the underpinning issue here.
Because Huawei is actively pursuing alternatives to working with US companies, there is a level of uncertainty about whether or not planned devices such as those that have been dropped will continue to see support in the long term.
What does this mean for 5G itself and for Huawei?
Plans to roll out a 5G network don't appear to have changed for any of the carriers that will no longer be carrying Huawei gadgets. That doesn't mean it won't affect the adoption of the technology by end users and ultimately the rollout itself. The UK and Europe represent key sales areas for Huawei and its 5G devices had been expected to do considerably well in those regions.
As a result of the OEM's 5G handsets' removal from the initial rollout of the next-gen network, telecoms analyst Paolo Pescatore has predicted that consumers in the UK will be slower to adopt 5G. That could increase the overall cost of the roll-out with fewer subscribers buying into the plans and, in turn, slow down the roll-out.
For Huawei, the cut to its sales will represent another hurdle that needs to be overcome if it hopes to hold onto its position as the world's second largest smartphone seller. It remains to be seen whether or not carriers elsewhere follow suit.