France Begins Suspending Huawei

The French cyber security agency (ANSII) has announced that it will grant time-limited waivers on 5G for wireless operators that use the Chinese company’s products. France’s decision to give only temporary security approval for fifth-generation mobile equipment shows the government intends to gradually sideline Huawei Technologies Co., a majority party lawmaker said. 

The measure is not an outright ban and is intended to deter local operators them from choosing Huawei and is intended to significantly reduce Huawei's participation in the future network.

ANSII Director General Guillaume Poupard said, "What I can say is that there won't be a total ban. But for operators that are not currently using Huawei, we are inciting them not to go for it.... the natural course of things” to reduce Huawei’s presence in France’s communication networks, although it won’t totally ban."

Two of France’s four national mobile operators, Bouygues Telecom and Altice’s SFR, use Huawei for parts of their 4G networks and have planned to do so again for 5G. Their Huawei equipment represents about 22% of national wireless infrastructure. The government’s intention is to lower this to as little as 13%, according a person familiar with the government’s plans.

The decision reflects a hardening of France’s position on Huawei, the world’s biggest maker of mobile network equipment, which is under threat from a growing US-led boycott.

Western security officials are concerned that Huawei’s systems could be infiltrated by hackers or hostile states. That poses a dilemma for European countries that are relying heavily on Huawei for 5G networks being built to handle fast-growing data traffic and new industrial applications. Replacing the company mid-rollout would be disruptive and expensive. Britain, which long resisted the pressure from Washington to ban Huawei, now intends to stop using 5G. 

Until recently, France also sought to strike a middle ground that would allow Huawei to remain an important supplier while keeping it out of some parts of its wireless infrastructure.

ANSII's plan to issue time-limited authorisations of between three and eight years is designed to deter them from using the company due to the uncertainty it creates around major investments. The move poses a technical challenge for Bouygues and SFR, which will now think twice before slotting Huawei 5G kit on top of their 4G systems and will have to consider costlier options. Some operators will need to dismantle Huawei equipment and the government has not said whether it intends to compensate them for the disruption.

The move against Huawei adds to the uncertainty around the timing of 5G deployment in France, which was already delayed by the Covid-19 crisis. 
 

ANSII:       France24:     Yahoo:         The Print:        Yahoo:         Reuters

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