UK, Japan mobile operators suspend Huawei 5G phone launches

Lloyd Doyle
May 23, 2019

Britain's biggest mobile operator EE said on Wednesday its 5G network would rely on equipment made by China's Huawei, at least for the first few years, as it announced plans to switch on the next-generation services on May 30. This is a temporary measure while uncertainty exists regarding new Huawei 5G devices.

That poses a dire threat to Huawei as loss of full access to Google's services could make its phones a hard sell to consumers.

Not only is EE dropping Huawei phones from its 5G launch, but BT is also in the process of removing Huawei technology from portions of its 4G network.

At an event to celebrate the launch, BT Group CEO Marc Allera addressed the turmoil surrounding the Chinese OEM and confirmed (via The Verge) that the carrier will be putting the sale of new Huawei devices "on pause" for the initial rollout.

"We do believe it is important for the United Kingdom that we are in the pack of the leading nations (for 5G)", he said.

EE says SIM Only plans will start from £32 and contracts will begin from £54 per month.

In one incident, a US State Department official said in a recent meeting with a South Korean counterpart that local telco LG Uplus Corp, which uses Huawei's equipment, should "not be allowed to serve in sensitive areas in South Korea", Chosun Ilbo reported.

EE, which is preparing to launch 5G service in six British cities later this month, said on Wednesday (May 22) that it would no longer offer a new Huawei smartphone as part of that service.

Japan's Panasonic on Thursday said it would stop supplying some components to Huawei, joining a growing list of firms distancing themselves from the Chinese telecoms giant after a USA ban over security concerns.

The UK is trying hard to not alienate the United States or China at a time when it needs both superpowers and their trade and investment to buffer the likely effects of Britain's planned departure from the European Union, said Leslie Vinjamuri, head of think tank Chatham House's Americas program.

"There is no current government guidance to suggest we should not use Huawei, but if the guidance changes we will reconsider". Vodafone and other carriers use Huawei equipment on the edge of the network, where radio antennas connect with user devices.

But Mr Howett thinks that a ban on Huawei could be problematic, not just for EE but for all the UK's operators, because it is in a significant part of their networks.

"There is little interoperability between vendors, which means it is hard to deploy non-Huawei 5G equipment alongside existing Huawei 4G equipment".

However, the company has declined to comment on which components are subject to the ban and where they are getting produced.

The handsets available will include the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, OnePlus's 7 Pro 5G and Oppo's Reno 5G phones.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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