MADRID – Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica said Wednesday it would drastically reduce the amount of equipment it will buy from Huawei to build its 5G networks, amid concerns the firm could be used for Chinese espionage.
Huawei equipment will be used during the “initial stages”¨of the deployment of the next-generation 5G cellular network, including its key markets of Spain and Germany, Telefonica said in a statement.
But during the “massive deployment” of 5G, foreseen in 2022, “Telefonica will progressively reduce Huawei’s presence” in the core, or main hub, of the 5G network, it added.
Purchases of Huawei core equipment will fall “until they disappear around 2024” and instead Telefonica “will have several vendors and not just one” as is currently the case.
“Huawei remains a valuable supplier to Telefonica and will continue to work with the company in other important areas like radio access networks,” the statement said.
Huawei provided Telefonica’s 4G networks in Europe.
Telecom experts consider the company as the leader in 5G equipment, in terms of both technology and price.
But U.S. intelligence chiefs claim that Huawei — founded in 1987 by former Chinese army engineer Ren Zhengfei — cannot be trusted and that its equipment is a threat to national security.
Huawei and Beijing reject the accusations, and Huawei says it is a private company that is wholly owned by employees.
U.S. President Donald Trump has ordered American firms to cease doing business with Huawei over the espionage concerns, and has urged other countries to follow suit.
Australia and Japan have already taken steps to bar or tightly restrict the firm’s participation in their rollouts of 5G networks.
5G cellular networks offer faster data transfer speed and could enhance technologies such as autonomous driving, remote medical diagnosis and mobile payments.