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“Deploying 5G without Chinese equipment is a complex and costly ambition”

Grandstand. Many discovered in 2019 in a decree by President Trump banning the use of Chinese technology by American operators that Huawei had become the world's largest supplier of telecommunications equipment. Despite exemptions or temporary authorizations, the American administration has continued to extend its prohibitions and control until May 15 block direct, but also indirect access via foreign companies, Chinese companies to technology American, especially in components.

Faced with American pressure, its ambiguities (the potential application of this policy to European tech) but also the legitimacy of the security issue of telecom networks, European countries have had difficulty finding a positioning. Beyond the sensitivities of the countries, the dilemma facing public authorities and European operators comes back to the following question: can we eject an essential supplier, at the risk of calling into question the competition that has taken hold on the services market? telecoms in our countries?

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Focused on 5G, the debate suggests that the advent of this new standard is the right opportunity to abandon this dependence. No doubt, even if, contrary to the situation prevailing in the United States, European operators have opened their networks to Huawei quite widely. However, deploying 5G without Chinese equipment is an ambition that quickly turns out to be complex and costly when we opted for Chinese technology on certain parts of its 4G mobile network, which will remain the foundation of 5G for many years. In addition, mobile broadband networks are becoming more and more widely intertwined with fixed networks, in which the equipment of the Chinese champion is also very often found in Europe…

What to do to compartmentalize and reduce risks?

First, let’s remember that there are no tight barriers between the operators ’ecosystem and that of the equipment industry. In other words, there is undoubtedly a relationship between the disappearance of Siemens, Alcatel and other suppliers, and the intensity of competition between operators in Europe, which results in the fragmentation of the sector, especially by comparison with the size and market power of American and Chinese players.

For years, the difference in operators' investment in mobile infrastructure, measured in total expenditure by national market on the number of inhabitants, has been very significant between the two shores of the Atlantic. It cannot be explained solely by the oligopolistic characteristics of the American market or the comparative geographic particularities of the American and European markets.

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