Vietnam Says No to China’s Huawei on 5G Networking

BERLIN, GERMANY - MARCH 12: People walk past a Huawei customer service center on March 12, 2019 in Berlin, Germany.
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Vietnam, which presently has tense relations with China, is building a 5G network without using products from China’s telecom giant Huawei.

The U.S. government has advised allied nations to avoid Huawei despite the company’s advanced technology and inexpensive products because Huawei systems might be compromised by Chinese intelligence agents and used for spying.

The South China Morning Post on Tuesday quoted Vietnamese officials taking America’s warnings to heart and putting together a 5G network without Huawei products:

Viettel Group, Vietnam’s largest mobile carrier owned by the defense ministry, will deploy Ericsson AB’s equipment in Hanoi and Nokia Oyj’s technology in Ho Chi Minh City, said Viettel chief executive officer Le Dang Dung. It will use 5G chipsets from Qualcomm and another US company. The carrier, which uses Ericsson and Nokia for its 4G network, is also developing its own equipment, he added.

“We are not going to work with Huawei right now,” Dung said in an interview at the company’s Hanoi headquarters. “It’s a bit sensitive with Huawei now. There were reports that it’s not safe to use Huawei. So Viettel’s stance is that, given all this information, we should just go with the safer ones. So we choose Nokia and Ericsson from Europe.”

Vietnam’s smaller carriers appear to be shying away from Huawei, as well. MobiFone is using Samsung equipment while Vietnam Telecom Services Company, or Vinaphone, entered into a partnership with Nokia to deploy its 5G network, according to local media.

Dung added that if his operation receives “favorable information regarding Huawei in the future,” it might reconsider its decision and buy equipment from the Chinese company. He insisted Vietnam reached its own conclusions on the matter rather than following the U.S. lead in banning Huawei, although he said the American analysis of Huawei’s security issues was considered by Vietnamese officials.

The South China Morning Post noted that Vietnam has experienced attacks from Chinese hackers and is engaged in bitter territorial disputes with Beijing, including the very unwelcome presence of a Chinese surveying vessel in waters claimed by Vietnam. Analysts suggested the Vietnamese might also be reluctant to use Huawei technology because the U.S. has threatened to reduce intelligence-sharing with countries that do so.

The Phnom Penh Post reported on Tuesday that even though Vietnam’s Viettel Group has decided to avoid Huawei tech, its Cambodian subsidiary Metfone will buy 5G equipment from the Chinese firm. Metfone is scheduled to begin trials with Huawei 5G equipment in less than two weeks.

“We are a consumer country – we are not producers, so the fight between producer countries is none of our business,” said a spokesman for Cambodia’s telecommunications regulatory agency.

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