October 9, 2020, 07.06 PM

STOCKHOLM/PARIS, KOMPAS.com - Belgium has appointed Nokia to help build the EU member’s 5G networks amid US pressure to exclude Chinese firms like Huawei.

The company Orange and Proximus will now assign Nokia to supply key telecoms equipment as it expands 5G networks across Belgium.

The moves are among the first by commercial operators in Europe to drop Huawei from next-generation networks and come after months of diplomatic pressure from Washington, which alleges Huawei equipment could be used by Beijing for spying.

Read also: Hong Kong’s Nathan Law Advises the West to Abandon Chinese Technology Ties

The Belgian capital Brussels is home to the European Union's executive body and parliament, making it a matter of particular concern for US intelligence agencies.

"Belgium has been 100 percent reliant on Chinese vendors for its radio networks — and people working at NATO and the EU were making mobile phone calls on these networks," said John Strand, an independent Danish telecoms consultant.

"The operators are sending a signal that it's important to have access to safe networks."

Huawei, the world's biggest telecoms equipment supplier, strongly denies the US allegations and has been highly critical of calls to ban it from 5G contracts.

Read also: US Republicans, TikTok, and Concerns about Chinese Interference

However, the company said on Friday it accepted the decisions by Orange Belgium and Proximus, which confirm a Reuters report.

"This is the outcome of a tender organized by operators and the result of the free market," a Huawei spokesman said.

"We embrace fair competition, the more diversified a supply chain the more competitive it becomes," he said, adding Huawei had been supplying equipment in Belgium for more than a decade and its commitment remained unchanged.

The deals to supply radio gear to Orange Belgium and Proximus are a boost for Nokia, which struggled to make headway in the 5G network market earlier this year even as Huawei was under pressure.

"I have tried to become RAN (radio access network) supplier to Orange Belgium since 2003 when the company was still Mobistar. Here we are, finally," tweeted Tommi Uitto, President of Nokia Mobile Networks.

Read also: Brussels to Rename Road Tunnel Linked to Belgium’s Colonial Past

The companies did not disclose a value for the contracts. Nokia shares were up nearly 3 percent in early trading.

Orange Belgium and Proximus said Ericsson would supply the core of their 5G networks, a smaller slice of the business.

EU members have been stepping up scrutiny of so-called high-risk vendors.

This subjects Huawei's governance and technology to critical examination and is likely to lead other European operators to strip it from their networks, analysts say.

Nokia and Ericsson have been the main beneficiaries of the challenges facing Huawei. From Bell Canada and Telus Corp in Canada to BT in Britain, the Nordic companies have been grabbing market share from the Chinese firm.

Separately, Nokia said it had won a contract to provide data management software to Telefonica UK, replacing an unidentified existing vendor.

(Writers: Supantha Mukherjee, Mathieu Rosemain | Editors: Jason Neely, Mark Potter)

Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-orange-nokia-security-5g/huawei-ousted-from-heart-of-eu-as-nokia-wins-belgian-5g-contracts-idUSKBN26U0YY 

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