Vodafone boss demands US share what evidence it has on Huawei

Huawei logo on the side of a building as people walk past
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The head of Vodafone has demanded that the US share what evidence it has about Huawei so that European companies can reach a consensus on whether to use its hardware in their network infrastructure.

Chief executive Nick Read told attendees at Mobile World Congress (MWC) on Monday that a boycott off Huawei, which is currently the world's biggest supplier of network equipment, would reduce the market down to just two major players, which would likely harm the industry and delay 5G in Europe.

"We need to have a fact-based risk-assessed review," said Read, as reported by Reuters.

"People are saying things at the moment that are not grounded, I'm not saying that is the case for the US because I have not met them directly myself so I have not seen what evidence they have, but they clearly need to present that evidence to the right bodies throughout Europe.

The statement comes after the US moved to boycott Huawei following fears that the company may be closely tied with the Chinese government, and therefore using its equipment could represent a risk to national security.

The US has since urged its allies to follow suit, sparking a number of countries in Europe to question its ties with Huawei. In the UK, BT announced it would be stripping Huawei gear from its infrastructure in a bid to fulfil a 2006 pledge to reform its security practices.

However, despite initially echoing concerns that Huawei could pose a risk to national security, the UK's cyber security agencies appear to have eased off.

GCHQ reiterated this week that the UK has yet to decide on its security approach to 5G, and the National Cyber Security Centre has also reached the conclusion that any security risks posed by Huawei can be mitigated - all of which suggests that the use of Huawei technology in UK infrastructure has not entirely been ruled out.

The issue is complicated somewhat given the reach that Huawei currently enjoys, with governments and companies being forced to weigh up potential security fears with the sheer cost of replacing the technology with a western alternative.

For Vodafone's part, the company still uses Huawei radio technology, but it announced in January that it would be suspending the rollout of equipment within its core data processing networks throughout Europe, pending clarification from governments.

However, Read said this was only a temporary solution as to entirely replace Huawei equipment with that of another provider would be "very, very expensive", and that it would "delay 5G in Europe by probably two years".

Dale Walker

Dale Walker is the Managing Editor of ITPro, and its sibling sites CloudPro and ChannelPro. Dale has a keen interest in IT regulations, data protection, and cyber security. He spent a number of years reporting for ITPro from numerous domestic and international events, including IBM, Red Hat, Google, and has been a regular reporter for Microsoft's various yearly showcases, including Ignite.