Vodafone boss: Huawei ban could delay 5G rollout in Europe by two years

640px-HuaweiCanadaVodafone CEO Nick Read said excluding Huawei from participating in European 5G markets could delay the rollout of 5G services in the region by two years.

Speaking at a press conference at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Monday, Read said that banning the Huawei from Europe’s 5G networks could be “hugely disruptive” to national infrastructure and consumers.

China-based Huawei is the largest mobile network gear supplier in the world, followed by Sweden’s Ericsson and Finland’s Nokia. Huawei has been successful in capturing markets by offering cheaper high-tech products than its competitors.

“If we concentrate it down to two players I think that’s an unhealthy position not just for us as an industry but also for national infrastructure in the country,” Read said.

Unlike the US, Huawei already has a big presence in European networks and its equipment is used in 4G networks across Europe. Barring the company from future 5G networks would require a massive equipment swap that Read says will be disruptive and “very, very expensive”.

“It will delay 5G in Europe by probably two years,” he said. “It structurally disadvantages Europe.”

Read’s comments come amid heightened concerns that Huawei’s products could include backdoors allowing Chinese authorities to spy on other countries. Huawei has been unable to sell its products to major US service providers since a US government report first identified the security risk in 2012.

“People are saying things at the moment that are not grounded, I’m not saying that is the case for the U.S. because I have not met them directly myself so I have not seen what evidence they have, but they clearly need to present that evidence to the right bodies throughout Europe,” Read added.

Ericsson CEO Borje Ekholm told CNBC that concerns about the security of Huawei products has created uncertainty for operators. “It’s very speculative, we have no idea what’s going to happen,” Ekholm said.