Dominating telecoms: The race for 5G

Huawei, Nokia, and Ericsson continue to vie for telecoms supremacy with the race for 5G

Since its founding in 1987, Huawei has come to dominate the telecommunications market and now sits atop the pile as the world's leading telco equipment supplier. This success has been driven largely thanks to its hold on the Chinese market, and by an increased commitment to R&D.

Today, Huawei's dominance is reflected in its 28% share of the global telecoms market. However, while the US-China trade war continues, and concerns about the security of Huawei equipment persist, a window of opportunity has opened for Huawei's two largest competitors, Nokia and Ericsson, to take advantage of. And, with each company fighting for the chance to help bring 5G to market, any advantage could have significant repercussions.

Fighting security concerns

Thanks to China's tendency to limit foreign business within its borders, Huawei has established a near monopoly on telecommunications infrastructure within its home country. However, this advantage is mitigated somewhat as Huawei has essentially been shut out of the US market due to concerns about the security of its equipment. The US' announcement in April that it has banned the Chinese company from providing equipment or services to US government agencies came alongside calls to the rest of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance - the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada - to do the same.

For Australia and New Zealand these calls have come somewhat late. Both countries announced that they were minimising the use of Huawei equipment in their 5G projects back in August and November 2018 in favour of what they consider to be more secure competition. Yet, despite pressure from the US and security warnings from her senior ministers, British Prime Minister Theresa May announced in April that Huawei would be allowed to help build Britain's new 5G network. Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Tom Tugendhat tweeted that May's controversial decision would "cause allies to doubt our ability to keep data secure and erode the trust essential to #FiveEyes cooperation". Nevertheless, Andrew Palmer, Consulting Director of telecoms at GCI UK states that ‘it should also be noted that the operators in the UK are more likely to dual-source their networks these days, meaning no supplier will have both the Core Network and the Radio Access Network', which should prevent Huawei generating a monopoly on UK infrastructure.

And it is not just governments that are concerned about the security of Huawei equipment. British telecoms giant BT is currently implementing plans to remove Huawei equipment from its existing 4G networks and has advised companies to seriously consider whether Huawei is the right choice to help power their 5G networks moving forward. Instead, BT has selected Nokia's 7750 SR-14s server router platform to help with the launch of its 5G mobile network services. Nokia's platform is set to become the foundation of BT's 5G mobile transport network which is currently achieving yearly traffic growth of over 40%. At the other end of the spectrum Vodafone has defended its use of Huawei equipment to bring its 5G service to market, challenging their critics to produce evidence of the Chinese company's spying network. Early in July, its switch on of 5G in the UK relied largely on Huawei equipment. 

A global battleground

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