SoftBank ‘replacing Huawei 4G equipment’ with Ericsson or Nokia

14 December 2018 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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The government of Japan has stepped back from telling telecoms operators not to use Huawei or ZTE equipment – but SoftBank will replace Huawei kit in its network with alternatives from Ericsson or Nokia.

The Japanese government has already said it is concerned about cyber security in equipment it buys – a statement believed to mean it won’t buy Chinese gear for its own use. But now Reuters is reporting that Yoshihide Suga, a spokesman for the Japanese government, has said that policy won’t be imposed on private companies.

He did not name Huawei or ZTE, but it was clear that he was referring to the two rival companies.

However the Nikkei Asian Review is reporting that SoftBank is to replace Huawei kit used in its 4G network with alternatives from the Swedish and Finnish companies.

The agency reported that “the hardware will be replaced over the next few years”, and the policy is expected to extend to SoftBank’s 5G procurement strategy.

One reason for the move could be that SoftBank – headed by Masayoshi Son (pictured) is the majority shareholder in US operator Sprint, which has a large mobile network and provides enterprise and wholesale services. SoftBank has agreed a merger with Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile US and the two are seeking regulatory approval from US authorities. SoftBank will want to be seen to be removing Huawei kit from its network as a concession to US politicians.

At the same time, SoftBank owns 29% of Alibaba group, the internet services company run by Jack Ma.

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe explained the decision not to use Chinese kit in government departments and the country’s military. “It’s extremely important to avoid buying equipment that includes malicious functions like stealing or destroying information or halting information systems,” he said, according to Nikkei.  

Meanwhile in Europe, the chair of the Danish parliament’s defence committee has expressed concerns about Huawei. Damascus-born Naser Khader, a member of Denmark’s Conservative People’s Party, told Danish broadcaster DR: “I’m very sceptical and actually worried that it is [Huawei] that might end up being responsible for our infrastructure.”

He was speaking after Jason Lan Yang, CEO of Huawei Denmark, wrote to the defence committee, saying what has become a Huawei formulaic phrase: “I want to assure you that Huawei complies with all applicable laws and regulations where it operates, including applicable export control and sanction laws and regulations of the UN, US and EU.”

Executives of Danish incumbent TDC took part in a Huawei conference two years ago in Wuzhen, China, to talk about its use of the company’s equipment in its broadband network.