Huawei loses key 5G contract in Japan to Nokia and Ericsson

Huawei was a 4G vendor for SoftBank but was not selected despite participating in earlier 5G trials.
Huawei was a 4G vendor for SoftBank but was not selected despite participating in earlier 5G trials. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TOKYO • SoftBank Group's Japanese telecommunications unit has selected Nokia and Ericsson as vendors for its next-generation wireless network, excluding long-time supplier Huawei Technologies.

SoftBank Corp named Nokia as a strategic partner for its 5G rollout and Ericsson as a supplier of radio access network equipment, the companies said in separate statements on Wednesday. Huawei, which together with ZTE was a 4G vendor for the Japanese firm, was not selected despite participating in earlier 5G trials. SoftBank declined further comment.

US President Donald Trump's administration has targeted Huawei for months, first encouraging allies to ban the Chinese firm's equipment from their networks, and then putting Huawei on an export blacklist that bans it from buying American software and components.

Australia and New Zealand have prohibited Chinese gear from their networks, while Japan has said it will exclude equipment with security risks without making an official decision on Huawei.

Japanese media has reported that the country's top three carriers - NTT Docomo, SoftBank, and KDDI - will shun Huawei and ZTE.

"You can also expect Docomo and KDDI to follow suit,'' said analyst Masahiko Ishino of the Tokai Tokyo Research Centre. "So, SoftBank isn't going to be at a cost disadvantage.''

The companies are also scrapping plans to sell Huawei handsets as the impact of a US supply ban spreads. The Chinese firm did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

 
 
 

Britain's BT Group announced plans to remove Huawei gear from the core of its mobile network soon after the head of the country's foreign intelligence agency, MI-6, warned about the risks of using Chinese equipment.

Taiwan already bans Chinese telecoms equipment.

At an earnings briefing in February, SoftBank Group chief executive officer Masayoshi Son said it would cost about five billion yen (S$63 million) to replace existing Huawei gear in its network.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has praised Huawei, snubbing the Trump administration's global campaign against the Chinese firm.

Malaysia will use Huawei's gear "as much as possible" as it offers "tremendous advance over American technology", Tun Dr Mahathir said at a forum in Tokyo yesterday.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2019, with the headline 'Huawei loses key 5G contract in Japan to Nokia and Ericsson'. Print Edition | Subscribe