French telecoms operator Orange said Friday that it had chosen Nokia and Ericsson to supply equipment for its next-generation 5G network, amid a growing dispute over the use of gear from China’s industry heavyweight Huawei.
Nokia and Ericsson already provide the backbone for Orange’s 4G network in France, and they will begin by updating existing software with 5G capabilities once authorities make frequencies available later this year.
The decision comes as the United States puts pressure on European nations to shut out Huawei, accusing it of ties to the Chinese government that could give Beijing the potential to spy on classified communications.
The EU this week issued guidelines allowing telecom operators to ban network equipment providers considered a security risk, though it did not target Huawei by name nor call for an outright ban.
The Chinese company’s cutting-edge 5G technology is an attractive offering for European operators, many of which have used Huawei gear for years, but the move by Brussels infuriated officials in Washington.
The US has banned Huawei from its own 5G rollout and threatened to limit intelligence-sharing with London in the event of the firm winning a major role in Britain.
Despite the threats, Britain this week authorised a limited role for Huawei in its 5G network.
The new networks are critical for ensuring the lightning-quick data transfers needed to deploy technological advances such as self-driving cars and remotely controlled factories, while increasing security of communication and power grids.
But the EU Commission also warned that 5G offers “more potential entry points” for cyber attacks.