French authorities have told telecoms operators planning to buy Huawei 5G equipment that they won’t be able to renew licences for the gear once they expire, effectively phasing the Chinese firm out of mobile networks, three sources close to the matter said.
Like other countries in Europe, France is laying the ground for its next-generation 5G mobile market in the middle of a growing geopolitical storm between two global superpowers.
The United States say the company’s equipment could be used by the Chinese government for espionage - a charge denied by Huawei and Beijing - and has pressed its allies to ban it.
France’s cybersecurity agency ANSSI said this month it would allow operators to use equipment, including Huawei’s, under licences of three to eight years. But it added it was urging telcos not currently using the Chinese company’s gear to avoid switching to it.
Operators must each apply for dozens of licences for equipment to cover different parts of the country.
The sources said ANSSI had informed operators of most licence decisions for large cities. They said the bulk of authorisations for Huawei gear were for three or five years, while most of those for equipment from European rivals Ericsson (ERICb.ST) or Nokia (NOKIA.HE) received eight-year licences.
ANSSI’s decisions have not been made public, either by the agency or by the companies.
The sources added that operators had also been told by French authorities during informal conversations in recent months, not stated formally in documents, that licences granted for Huawei equipment would not be renewed thereafter.
ANSSI declined to comment.
A spokesman for the prime minister’s office, which oversees the permissions on 5G equipment, said ANSSI was working with operators within the legal framework, adding that any authorisation granted at present did not impinge on whether these would later be renewed or interrupted.