The ongoing war of words between Huawei and US officials shows no sign of letting up. Now, the US is giving Huawei’s competitors a leg up.
Mark Esper, US Secretary of Defence, spoke at the Munich Security Conference this weekend. “We are encouraging allied and U.S. tech companies to develop alternative 5G solutions,” he said. “We are working alongside them to test these technologies at our military bases as we speak” (via Reuters).
White House adviser Robert Blair explained that the US is already working with Huawei’s main 5G competitors, Nokia, Ericsson and Samsung, as well as a variety of smaller firms.
Related: 5G in the UK
During the debate, which revolved around the UK’s 5G network and whether it should include Huawei tech, the idea that Ericsson and Nokia could possibly supply the equipment instead was hotly debated.
Some claimed the companies were too far behind Huawei in terms of 5G capabilities. Now, it seems that the US is trying to re-dress the balance.
“We will have some sort of a partnership with industry, we’re not sure what that’s going to look like but … we will have a big tent… It will be very much a U.S.-led effort but with like-minded partners around the world and we’ll have to see where that discussion goes. And that’s a matter of months not years,” said Blair, somewhat confusingly.
Is he taking Nokia on a camping trip? Tent? What?
This move from US officials chimes with recent comments from Boris Johnson. The Prime Minister told BBC Breakfast, before the decision on Huawei’s 5G involvement was made: “The British public deserve to have access to the best possible technology. We want to put in gigabit broadband for everybody. Now if people oppose one brand or another then they have to tell us what’s the alternative.”
It seems the US is doing its bit to point to the alternatives now and indeed to further enable those companies to be legitimate alternatives to Huawei.
An anonymous industry insider suggested that this move is intended to influence other European nations to avoid partnerships with Huawei, following the UK’s decision to partially include the company in its 5G network.
The source told Reuters: “The Americans are frustrated by the weak response from Britain, and worry Germany and France will think the same… As they see it, European leaders are not basing their statements on facts.”