Stockholm/Washington – Network equipment providers Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson and Nokia Corp., Huawei Technology Co.'s biggest competitors, said they are ready to step in after the U.K. announced it was phasing out the Chinese telecom giant from its 5G network.
"We have the capacity and expertise to replace all of the Huawei equipment in the U.K.'s networks at scale and speed," Nokia CEO for the U.K. and Ireland Cormac Whelan said Tuesday in a statement.
Ericsson echoed that stance in a separate statement.
"We stand ready to work with the U.K. operators to meet their timetable, with no disruption to customers," said Arun Bansal, president of Europe and Latin America at Ericsson.
Both companies stressed that they were already established in the U.K. and experienced in building 5G networks.
The U.K.'s digital minister Oliver Dowden announced Tuesday that "from the end of this year, (telecom) providers must not buy any 5G equipment from Huawei."
Dowden added that all existing Huawei gear should be stripped out "by 2027."
As two of the main competitors to Huawei, the companies have been benefiting from a U.S. push to have countries avoid Huawei.
The U.S. government has claimed that Huawei — founded by former Chinese army engineer Ren Zhengfei — is a security risk and has urged allies to shun its equipment over fears it could serve as a Trojan horse for Chinese intelligence services.
Dowden said the process of finding new entrants would start with South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co. and Japan's NEC Corp., while Nokia and Ericsson would be protected as existing players.
Huawei, which is the sector leader in terms of market share, has always denied links to the Chinese government.
But the move threatens to further damage Britain's ties with the Asian power and carry a big cost for U.K. mobile providers that have relied on Huawei equipment for nearly 20 years.
Huawei called it "politicized" and likely to put Britain "in the digital slow lane."
China's Ambassador in London, Liu Xiaoming, called it a "disappointing and wrong decision."
"It has become questionable whether the U.K. can provide an open, fair and nondiscriminatory business environment for companies from other countries," he wrote on Twitter.
In Washington, the U.S. government hailed Britain's decision. "We welcome news that the United Kingdom plans to ban Huawei from future 5G networks and phase out untrusted Huawei equipment from existing networks," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
"We will continue to work with our British friends on fostering a secure and vibrant 5G ecosystem, which is critical to transatlantic security and prosperity," he said.
The British ban, which came despite warnings of retaliation by Beijing, handed a victory to U.S. President Donald Trump's administration, which has been seeking to isolate the Chinese telecom titan.
Trump's national security advisor, Robert O'Brien, wrote on Twitter that Britain's move showed a "growing international consensus" that Huawei and other companies allegedly linked to the Chinese state "pose a threat to national security."
While the European Union has resisted a sweeping ban on Huawei, Pompeo highlighted decisions against the company in a number of European states.
He also pointed to companies in Australia, India, Japan and South Korea that have decided to be "clean" from Huawei.
"Countries need to be able to trust that 5G equipment and software will not threaten national security, economic security, privacy, intellectual property or human rights," Pompeo said.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson initially resisted, allowing Huawei to roll out a new high-speed network in Britain in January.
But U.S. sanctions in May blocking Huawei's access to U.S. chips for the 5G networks brought a change of heart in London.