Vodafone has “paused” the deployment of Huawei equipment in its core networks in Europe until Western governments resolve security concerns about the Chinese telecoms giant.
Huawei is under scrutiny over its ties with the Chinese government and allegations that its technology could be used for spying.
The Chinese firm has consistently denied those allegations.
Vodafone chief executive Nick Read said that debate was “too simplistic”.
Nevertheless, he said: “We have decided to pause further Huawei in our core whilst we engage with the various agencies and governments and Huawei just to finalise the situation, of which I feel Huawei is really open and working hard.”
Vodafone will put on hold the rollout of Huawei equipment into its European core networks, including in the UK, until governments and security services clarify whether that equipment will be able to be used or whether there will be restrictions on using that technology.
The firm’s core networks are the data centres, equipment and software that Vodafone uses to connect customers to each other and the internet.
These are distinct from its radio networks, of masts and equipment, and its transmission networks, which connect the core and radio networks.
The greatest concentration of data lies in the core networks, which are more security-sensitive.
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There are three big vendors which supply telecoms equipment in Europe: Huawei, Ericsson, and Nokia.
Huawei has about a 35% market share in Europe, making it an important player in the industry.
A Huawei spokesperson said: “Vodafone and Huawei are long-term strategic partners that have worked together since 2007.
“Huawei is focused on supporting Vodafone’s 5G network rollouts, of which the core is a small proportion.
“We are grateful to Vodafone for its support of Huawei and we will endeavour to live up to the trust placed in us.”
Governments and telecoms firms around the world are in a race to deploy so-called 5G or fifth generation networks, with commercial services already available in the US and South Korea.
However, since 2012 the US has been concerned about the security implications of letting a Chinese firm with links to the People’s Liberation Army and the Communist Party supply telecommunications equipment.
The US has taken an increasingly aggressive stance against the firm as the 5G race has gained momentum.
In August 2018, Australia said Huawei and Chinese rival ZTE would be excluded from its 5G networks, and in November 2018 New Zealand followed suit.
In December 2018, Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver.
In January this year, Huawei sacked an employee who had been arrested in Poland on suspicion of spying.
Reuters reported on Thursday that the arrest may have put Huawei out of the running to supply equipment for Poland’s future 5G network.