Huawei Inks 5G Deals Across Europe Despite U.S. Government Warnings

World telecoms are bucking Washington's national security warnings

The race to 5G is set to heat up in 2019. Getty Images

Huawei landed a host of new 5G deals at the global wireless industry’s top trade show this week despite the U.S. government’s appeals for allies to ban the Chinese tech giant’s hardware.

The telecom equipment and device maker announced at Mobile World Congress that it would sell the gear needed to build the next generation of wireless service to 10 more carriers in Switzerland, Iceland, South Africa and several other countries as it pushed back against the U.S. government’s claims that doing so could open the door to Chinese espionage.

Business leaders and analysts expect the exponential speed boosts set to come with 5G to hugely expand the role of wireless service in everyday life, weaving into everything from power grids to autonomous cars. Thus, the question of who will control its operational workings is of critical importance to corporations and world governments, and the arms race to realize the technology first has become a contentious battleground for both.

Trump administration officials have mounted a lobbying blitz against Huawei in the capital cities of friendly countries, warning that the company’s technology could provide a so-called “back door” for the Chinese government to intercept sensitive state and corporate communications or even sabotage critical infrastructure.

Huawei has repeatedly denied that it would cooperate with any state intelligence-gathering, and rotating chairman Guo Ping used his Mobile World Congress keynote address to fire back at the U.S. government for supposed hypocrisy in this regard, citing a new federal law that compels cloud providers like Amazon and Microsoft to comply with government requests for customer data.

“Huawei has not and will never form back doors and never allow anyone to do so in our equipment,” Guo said, per the South China Morning Post’s report. “The irony is that the US Cloud Act allow their governmental entities to access data across borders.”

Elsewhere at the Barcelona venue, U.S. officials slammed the “duplicitous and deceitful” company for not mentioning Chinese laws that also require it to collaborate with Beijing authorities.

“The United States is asking other governments and the private sector to consider the threat posed by Huawei and other Chinese information technology companies,” Robert Strayer, ambassador for cyber and international communications at the U.S. State Department, told reporters hours after Guo’s keynote, according to CNBC.

Despite a host of major American allies including the United Kingdom, Germany and Canada said to be considering following Washington’s lead in barring Huawei, the company still managed to secure hardware deals with Swiss carrier Sunrise, Iceland’s Nova, South Africa’s Rain, Saudi Arabia’s STC, Monaco Telecom, Indonesia’s Telkomsel, Malaysia’s Maxis, Kenya’s Safaricom, Bahrain’s VIVA and Turkey’s Türk Telekom this week. The new deals join Huawei’s at least 25 existing contracts, far more than any of its rivals.

@patrickkulp Patrick Kulp is an emerging tech reporter at Adweek.