One of the world's biggest mobile operators, Vodafone, has launched its first commercial 5G network in 15 Spanish cities, including Madrid and Barcelona, using Huawei tech. The roll-out took place despite US pressure on European Union member states to ban Huawei from participating in the construction of 5G networks. However, Vodafone CEO Nick Read slammed the US demands, saying that ditching Huawei would delay the delivery of the network by around two years.
Washington claims that Huawei is installing backdoors in its equipment to allegedly help Beijing carry out espionage and cyberattacks, despite the company vehemently denying having ties to the government. The US has threatened to suspend intelligence sharing with European states that incorporate Huawei tech in their 5G networks, citing fears that the information could end up in China's hands.
EU countries have been mostly reluctant to meet the US demands. Leaks to the media suggest that the UK, one of the US’ closest allies, has decided to allow Huawei to participate in non-core 5G network systems. France has stated that it will not ban operators from using Huawei, but will not oppose them dropping the firm voluntarily either. Hungary has adamantly defended its right to use Huawei's equipment in its fifth generation mobile network.
At the same time, European states have discussed possible security issues relating to the use of the Chinese tech giant's equipment and have agreed to share information on any vulnerabilities detected in their 5G networks.
The US has recently ramped up its crackdown on Huawei, barring its equipment from American soil, as well as banning domestic companies from providing US-made technologies to the Chinese giant. Washington insists that it is a matter of national security and is not connected to the ongoing trade row with China.
Beijing and Huawei have condemned the US move, which has cut off the tech company from US-chips and Google's Android operating system. Huawei has already filed a suit to fight Washington's decision, while China’s government has adopted guidelines that will allow it to ban foreign equipment from the Chinese market if it poses a risk to national security.
Although it has been cut off from the US, Huawei has reportedly had a "plan B" for such an occasion for a long time. According to the Business Times, the company is ready to ship around 225 million devices by the end of the year equipped with its own Hongmeng and Ark operating systems. The company has also mulled the option of adopting the Aurora OS, developed in Russia, as a replacement for Google's Android.