Chinese telecommunications powerhouse Huawei hopes to continue to play a major role in the rollout of the 5G network in Poland despite a recent agreement between the local government and the White House that may end up hitting the company’s local business plans.
“Cybersecurity is about technological standards. It is for experts to solve the problem,” said Tony Bao, head of Huawei Poland. “But if we move these standards into politics, it creates confusion. The Polish government guaranteed that no vendor will be excluded from future network developments; any vendor complying with the regulation will be welcome and therefore we believe we will continue being part of the country’s digital transformation.”
However, Polish president Andrzej Duda and US vice-president Mike Pence signed a joint declaration on September 5 which enshrines both parties’ commitment to tighten security standards on 5G networks. The declaration stated that “all countries must ensure that only trusted and reliable suppliers participate in our networks to protect them from unauthorised access or interference”.
This brings in requirements such as “a transparent ownership structure”; “whether the supplier is subject, without independent judicial review, to control by a foreign government"; and “whether the supplier has a record of ethical corporate behaviour and is subject to a legal regime that enforces transparent corporate practices". These are all elements that may compromise Huawei’s position, as the company has come under increasing fire in the US for its alleged ties with Beijing’s political power.
“We are a purely independent, private company,” rebutted Mr Bao. "Huawei has been caught in the trade war between the US and China.”
Although the Polish-US joint declaration hinted at a possible ban on Huawei in Poland, the company’s equipment makes up a major part of the country’s existing infrastructure and the government may well limit itself to tightening up regulation on vendors of 5G equipment in the country.
“I read the text of the agreement inside out and I don’t see any special treatment for any vendor,” said Marcin Cichy, the president of the national regulator for the telecommunications market in Poland.
“There is space for investigation, but I don’t believe there is space for exclusion, he added. "A ban on Huawei’s 5G equipment would increase costs and make 5G a prime product, not a mass product, and I don’t believe this is in anybody’s interest. The Polish government is doing its best to guarantee that new generation infrastructure will be investigate in a proper way. The most crucial point is to be able to investigate interconnections points, and that’s what the government is going to do.”
The White House is calling for its partners across the globe to increase scrutiny into Huawei’s political ties, practices and technology.