Pedro Nuno Santos: Portuguese government does not exclude Huawei from 5G

“What we are going to do is follow European guidelines and we do not have a priori issue with any manufacturer. Security issues are fundamental for the Portuguese government, whoever the supplier is, ”Pedro Nuno Santos told Reuters.

Minister of Infrastructure and Housing, Pedro Nuno Santos | Cristina Bernardo photo

Portuguese operators NOS, Altice and Vodafone, which dominate almost the entire market, said they have already decided that they will not use Huawei's technology in their 5G 'core' networks, despite the government not banning the Chinese giant from mobile telecoms infrastructure.

Like several European countries, Portugal is preparing an auction for the 5G spectrum, amid intense diplomatic pressure from the US to ban Huawei from entering these new generation telecom networks.

Washington wants its allies to exclude Huawei, the world's largest producer of telecoms equipment, arguing that the use of its 'kit' creates the potential for espionage by China - a claim systematically denied by Huawei and Beijing.

But, asked if the Government would ban Huawei, Infrastructure Minister Pedro Nuno Santos said that “the group created by the Government to assess the risks and cybersecurity issues of the 5G network has already completed its work and no conclusions have been drawn against no particular supplier. ”

“What we are going to do is follow European guidelines and we do not have a priori issue with any manufacturer. Security issues are fundamental for the Portuguese government, whoever the supplier is, ”Pedro Nuno Santos told Reuters.

But Nos, Vodafone and Altice - which together have almost 100% of the country's mobile telecoms customers - decided not to use Huawei technology in the 'core' of 5G networks, that is, in servers, gateways and routers that forward traffic for the antennas.

So far it has not been possible to obtain a comment from Huawei Portugal.

These mobile 'core' networks carry greater surveillance risks as they incorporate more sophisticated software programs that process confidential information, such as customers' personal data.

A NOS NOS.LS spokeswoman said that the company "will not have Huawei equipment in its 'core' network", and that it will choose the "best partners" for each component of the network.

"Vodafone (parent company VOD.L) announced that its core 5G network will not include Huawei in its different operations, so, of course, Vodafone Portugal is no exception," said a spokeswoman for Vodafone Portugal.
He added that Vodafone Portugal “has been working on preparing its 5G network with its preferred and historic partner Ericsson” ERICb.ST.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Altice Portugal ATCA.AS, Alexandre Fonseca, had already told journalists on March 5: “we don't have Huawei at the core of the network; we have other manufacturers ”, not naming which ones. A spokeswoman for Altice Portugal said that “the 5G process in Portugal is not yet fully defined, with a set of relevant decisions to be taken by the competent entities, so you must wait for them to later comment” on any partners. Minister Pedro Nuno Santos said that he had already heard that Huawei would be left out of the 'core' of these networks, "but it has nothing to do with the options or impositions of the Portuguese Government, which in this matter is absolutely aligned with the European orientation".

Last November, the European Union adopted a hard line with 5G providers to reduce cybersecurity risks on 5G mobile networks, seen as key to driving economic growth and competitiveness.

The strategy included reducing dependence on countries and telecoms operators from a single supplier. Huawei competes with the Finnish Nokia NOKIA.HE and the Swedish Ericsson.

In February, the US Department of State's assistant secretary for cybersecurity, international communications and information policy said on a visit to Lisbon that the EU has no reason to use Huawei technology as Nokia, Ericsson and South Korean Samsung are Chinese couple.

During this visit, Robert Strayer met with members of the Government, deputies, Anacom regulator and executives from Altice Portugal, Vodafone Portugal and NOS. (Full Story) (Full Story)

Portugal postponed the 5G spectrum auction to October for six months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The minister said that “the Government is not interested in having a very high price in the 5G auction” because it wants operators to have the financial muscle to make “significant investments in strategic and critical infrastructures”.

In the first phase, it aims to cover industrial zones, universities, schools, main roads, seaports with 5G and then cover the rest of the territory. Reuters Agency

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