Washington is sparing no effort in its campaign to stymy Chinese telecoms giant Huawei’s ascent to global dominance, as evidenced by a series of high-profile legal actions taken in recent months.
But as Huawei has already cemented itself as the leading provider of telecommunications equipment for many US allies, the crusade has stalled, and prospects for the Chinese firm’s competitors to swoop in to take advantage remain uncertain.
One issue facing Huawei’s Finnish rival, Nokia, is that Europe is dragging its feet on the rollout of 5G networks, regardless of whether it decides to shy away from Chinese equipment.
That’s one reason why the outlook for Nokia this year disappointed analysts, and the Finnish firm’s CEO, Rajeev Suri, said the company is still in the “early days” of trying to capitalize on a potential opening in Europe.
“Frankly, this is not the time to comment on the topic. The situation is still very much in flux. The outcome is for governments to decide, not Nokia. But if our customers ask for support we will give it,” Suri was quoted as saying by The Financial Times.
Shares of Nokia fell sharply on Thursday after the firm forecast a “particularly weak” first quarter.
Nokia, along with fellow European telecoms gear maker Ericsson, are still expected to pick up some extra business in the coming years as the UK, France and Germany consider just how much they want to rely on Huawei products, but such a trend would be gradual.
“Almost all of the operators in Europe tend to use Chinese vendors on at least parts of their network,” according to Citi analysts Amit Harchandani. “Therefore, while we still anticipate share gains for Nokia and Ericsson in Western Europe at the expense of the Chinese vendors, they would be more gradual and over a period of time.”
Despite reportedly frantic lobbying by US officials for European allies to formally block Huawei from providing next-generation mobile network components, not one has been willing to commit.
Some mobile providers in the UK, France and Germany have announced partial or temporary bans on certain types of Huawei gear, while a top German carrier said they are considering changes to their procurement policy. But that same German firnokiam, Deutsche Telekom also authored a report, leaked to Bloomberg, which said that shunning Huawei would set Europe back by years.