The head of one of the world’s largest mobile operators has asked the U.S. to share what it knows about Huawei’s security risks, so that European authorities can figure out what to do about the situation.
Vodafone CEO Nick Read said evidence could allow European countries to work out a common view on the use of Huawei equipment in their networks.
“We need to have a fact-based risk-assessed review,” said Read, according to a Reuters report.
The U.S. has been pressuring allies to stop allowing Huawei equipment, particularly in the revamps of networks that are taking place to enable the introduction of “5G” mobile technology. However, the U.S. itself has so far not issued a full ban on its own operators using the Chinese vendor—just a partial ban that affects federal agencies and recipients of federal funding.
Australia, Japan and New Zealand have effectively blocked their carriers from using Huawei’s 5G networking gear.
In Europe, the picture is more muddled. The German government has opted not to ban Huawei, instead requiring the company to agree to security commitments that would protect users. In the U.K., intelligence agencies say Huawei may pose a threat, but more in terms of lax cybersecurity practices than necessarily using its equipment as a spying vector for the Chinese state—the gist of the U.S. accusations.
Out of caution, Vodafone has paused new rollouts of Huawei equipment in its core networks, where the greatest spying opportunities would lie. Meanwhile, Vodafone and other British operators such as EE and Three are waiting for the U.K. government to tell them whether they can continue using Huawei gear or not.
“People are saying things at the moment that are not grounded,” said Read. “I’m not saying that is the case for the U.S. because I have not met them directly myself so I have not seen what evidence they have, but they clearly need to present that evidence to the right bodies throughout Europe.”
According to Reuters’ report, Read told reporters in Barcelona—where the Mobile World Congress trade show began Monday—that both industry and economic growth would take a hit if carriers were forced to shun Huawei equipment.
Huawei is the biggest supplier of such equipment in the world, and its products are relatively cheap. Without it, carriers would have to fall back on equipment from Nokia and Ericsson.