Bahrain to use Huawei in 5G rollout despite US warnings
Only concern is whether technology meets the country’s standards, says minister
Dubai — Bahrain, headquarters of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, plans to roll out a commercial 5G mobile network by June, partly using Huawei technology despite the US’s concerns that the Chinese telecom giant’s equipment could be used for spying.
Washington has warned countries against using Chinese technology, saying Huawei could be used by Beijing to spy on the West. China has rejected the accusations.
VIVA Bahrain, a subsidiary of Saudi Arabian state-controlled telecom STC, signed an agreement in February to use Huawei products in its 5G network, one of several Gulf telecoms firms working with the Chinese company.
“We have no concern at this stage as long as this technology is meeting our standards,” Bahrain’s telecommunications minister Kamal bin Ahmed Mohammed said on Tuesday when asked about US concerns over Huawei technology.
The US Fifth Fleet uses its base in Bahrain, a Western-allied island state off the Saudi coast, to patrol several important shipping lanes, also near Iran.
Bahrain expects to be one of the first countries to make 5G available nationwide, Mohammed said, although he cautioned it would depend on handset and equipment availability.
Early movers such as the US, China, Japan and South Korea are just starting to roll out their 5G networks, but other regions, such as Europe, are still years away and the first 5G phones are only likely to be released in the second half of 2019.
Bahrain’s state-controlled operator Batelco is working with Sweden’s Ericsson on its 5G network, while the country’s third telecom Zain Bahrain is yet to announce a technology provider.
No foreign company is restricted by the government from providing equipment for Bahrain’s 5G network, Mohammed said, adding that the mobile operators choose who they work with.
Australia and New Zealand have stopped operators using Huawei equipment in their networks but the EU is expected to ignore US calls to ban the Chinese company, instead urging countries to share more data to tackle cybersecurity risks related to 5G networks.
Mohammed said the rollout of the 5G network was an “important milestone” for Bahrain, which is hoping investment in technology will help spur the economy which has been hit hard by the drop in oil prices.
“It is something we are proud to have,” he said.