U.K. wireless carriers building fifth-generation networks with Huawei Technologies Co. equipment will shortly be stymied by a U.S. export ban on key components, according to the official leading Washington’s campaign against the company.
A decision by the U.S. to add Huawei to an export blacklist will cut the Chinese group off from using parts supplied by U.S. semiconductor makers such as Broadcom Inc. and Qualcomm Inc. after a delay to the ban expires on Aug. 19.
“In some ways our export ban will stop that technology, so it seems to me a business decision that is rather risky at this point in time,” Ambassador Rob Strayer told journalists, officials and diplomats at an event at Britain’s Houses of Parliament on Wednesday. “There’s not going to be a future” for the current supply chain underpinning Huawei 5G technology, he said.
British phone companies are installing hundreds of Huawei antennas as part of faster 5G networks needed to keep pace with exploding data demand. U.K. phone carrier BT Group Plc launched 5G in six cities last month using Huawei radio equipment. Rival Vodafone Group Plc is launching 5G in July and is also set to use Huawei for some of its initial network.
Strayer noted that those phone companies “decided not to go with Huawei phones” for their 5G launches “because they thought the supply was in jeopardy.” Similarly, “the entire supply chain for the networking equipment is also in jeopardy,” he said.
The White House says Huawei is under the sway of China’s government and its 5G equipment could be used to spy or disrupt factories and critical national infrastructure. Huawei denies the accusations.
Phone companies argue that a blanket ban of Huawei in 5G would incur huge costs and delays of 18-24 months in rolling out 5G. Strayer said he’d heard some estimates from carriers on the cost of a Huawei ban that “I think could be well exaggerated.”