Portugal may be the most recent country to ban Chinese companies from its 5G network development by forbidding its telecom companies from utilizing Chinese equipment in their ultra-fast 5G mobile networks and the 4G platforms that the new technology is built.

Huawei’s Potential 5G Ban

According to a deliberation report filed by the Superior Council for Cyberspace Security’s Safety Assessment Committee, the government might ban the use of equipment in its 5G wireless network from manufacturers or distributors situated outside the European Union(EU), as well as from nations not affiliated with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization(NATO) or the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development(OECD).

According to the Portuguese government, companies operating outside of designated regions pose a “high risk” to the safety of the nation’s wireless networks. While the statement did not explicitly mention China or any Chinese telecommunication company like Huawei, the country is neither a member of the EU, NATO, or OECD.

Additionally, the phrase used by the government of Portugal is consistent with “high-risk vendor” which governments across the world have used to refer to Huawei when imposing restrictions on the use of the company’s products.

The Portuguese government stated that the outcome of its assessment was still “classified” but said that it could lead to the exclusion, restriction, or cancellation of usage of the equipment and services.

As such, if Portugal’s cabinet approves the security council’s recommendation, Huawei and other Chinese suppliers like ZTE would effectively be barred from participating in the country’s 5G networks as well as the 4G network which is the foundation of the former.

Huawei, through a spokesperson, told the Financial Times that “Huawei has no prior knowledge of, and hasn’t been consulted about, this matter,” in response to the statement.

“Over the past two decades, Huawei has worked with Portuguese carriers to build out wireless networks and provide quality services that connect millions of people. We will continue to comply with all applicable laws and regulations, and serve Portuguese customers and partners who rely on our products and services,” the spokesperson added.

A Shift in Alliances

After Washington launched an offensive to persuade allies to forbid the Chinese telecoms business on the grounds of national security, the subject of whether or not to permit telecoms groups to use Huawei equipment in 5G infrastructure has grown significantly in importance across Europe.

As a result, the Chinese telecommunication company has so far been prohibited from participating in the construction of 5G networks in the UK, Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

On the other hand, Germany announced this year that it was studying the use of Chinese components in its 5G network and determining if a revision to the law would be necessary.

Till now, Portugal was one of a small number of European nations that resisted US government persuasion. In 2019, Portuguese Prime Minister, António Costa, was quoted by Financial Times saying that Chinese businesses have “shown complete respect for our legal framework and the rules of the market”.

The relationship between the two countries thrived as trade between them increased in the last ten years making Portugal one of the nations that have received the most Chinese investment per capita.

However, the new security measure signals a dramatic change in the duo’s ties as the US continues to pressure its partners in Europe to sever their connections with China. If Huawei is banned, its European rivals Nokia and Ericsson might form a supplier duopoly which seemingly, companies are already subscribing to.

Altice, Portugal’s largest wireless carrier, announced earlier in the year that it had chosen Nokia as the supplier of equipment for its primary 5G network despite having stated in 2019 that it was collaborating with Huawei to develop its 5G technology.

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