Huawei gets its first EU nod for 5G product
Huawei is celebrating the news that it has received approval for one of its 5G products to be sold in the European Union -- a rare win for the company after being all but blocked from the US market.
But consumers shouldn’t get too excited about buying a 5G-enabled Huawei phone just yet: The product that received the EU’s ‘mandatory certificate’ -- a requirement to sell products within the bloc -- is a commercial base station for mobile broadband.
Think of it as a massive router for significiantly faster signals that could one day enable technology like self-driving cars.
Even though a Huawei 5G smartphone is still more than a year away (the company says it will land towards the end of 2019), the announcement is a sign the company’s massive investment in 5G is paying off, even though the first 5G specification was only agreed upon last December.
The company said in a statement the EU approval represents a “significant step towards realizing large-scale commercial 5G deployment.”
Europe is more important than ever to Huawei’s global ambitions after the company was rebuffed by US carrier AT&T, reportedly under pressure from the US government over national security concerns.
The company has started cutting staff in the US in recent days as that reality starts to take its toll.
Despite the good news from Europe, Huawei’s success there isn’t guaranteed.
Competitors Nokia and Ericsson are making progress with their own 5G offerings -- with the latter claiming it's among the first companies to demonstrate the real-life use of a 5G live network in Europe.
But the bigger risk might be spillover from the new digital cold war playing out between Beijing and Washington. When it comes to 5G, both are trying to influence the technology's standards in a bid to get the upper hand.
It’s also possible that European countries -- in particular US allies -- could follow the United States' lead in limiting Huawei’s efforts, even though another ally, Britain, has warmly embraced the company.
A telco executive from South Korea recently said his company was “unsure” about whether to choose Huawei as a 5G partner because of “security concerns about spying”.
If you live in the US and worry about being left behind: T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon say they’ll start rolling out their 5G networks in 2018 and 2019.