A pedestrian walks past a Huawei product stand at an EE telecommunications shop in central London on April 29, 2019.
Tolga Akmen | AFP | Getty Images
EE, the operator of the U.K.’s largest cell phone network, said Wednesday that it wouldn’t offer 5G smartphones from Huawei.
“Until we get the information and confidence that gives us the long term surety that our customers, when they buy those devices, are going to be supported for the lifetime they’ve got the device with us … we’ve put those devices on pause,” EE CEO Marc Allera said Wednesday.
“When that information changes, then we’ll move forward and hopefully launch them, but for now we’ve put that on pause.”
An EE spokeperson subsequently told CNBC the firm was working with Huawei and Google to “make sure we can carry out the right level of testing and quality assurance.”
A spokesperson for Huawei meanwhile said it recognized the pressure its suppliers are facing amid “politically motivated decisions.”
“We are confident this regrettable situation can be resolved and our priority remains to continue to deliver world-class technology and products to our customers around the world.”
EE is set to launch its 5G service in the U.K. next Thursday, meaning it will be the first British cell phone operator to do so.
That race has been complicated however by increasing pressure from Washington on Huawei, the top telecommunications equipment maker worldwide. Huawei is considered a leader in 5G, but U.S. officials are concerned its equipment could be used for Chinese espionage, a claim the firm denies.
President Donald Trump’s administration recently added Huawei to a trade blacklist that means it can’t buy U.S. technology before gaining special approval from the government. The U.S. did, however, relax those restrictions temporarily, giving mobile and internet broadband firms a 90-day reprieve to continue working with Huawei.
Google initially decided to stop licensing its Android mobile operating system to Huawei, only to then say it would continue sending software updates to the Shenzhen-based firm’s phones, following the announcement of temporary exemptions.
Francisco Jeronimo, associate vice president for European devices at IDC, said network carriers likely “don’t want to sell a device that will not provide the full Android experience to their customers.”
“If there’s no solution to this case, I wonder if operators and retailers will start taking Huawei devices off the shelves and reduce the investment they are putting into Huawei devices.”