Dutch telecom KPN won't use Huawei for 'core' 5G network

Bart H. Meijer and Toby Sterling, Reuters

Posted at Apr 26 2019 06:52 PM

KPN logo is seen at its headquarters in Rotterdam. File Photo. Piroschka van de Wouw, Reuters

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - Dutch telecom firm Royal KPN NV said on Friday it would select a Western supplier to build its core 5G mobile network, making it one of the first European operators to make clear it would not pick China's Huawei for such work.

The United States has been seeking to discourage its allies from using equipment made by Huawei because of concerns that it could eventually be used for Chinese government spying. Huawei says such worries are baseless and US policy is driven by economic interests.

The Hague-based KPN, the Netherlands' largest telecom firm, said its decision took into account "the evolving assessment on the protection of vital infrastructure and the influence this may have on future Dutch policy."

The Dutch government has not taken a decision on the issue.

KPN, which also reported on Friday slightly worse than expected first quarter core earnings of 563 million euros ($627 million), said it would still use equipment made by Huawei in some capacities.

In addition, the company announced a preliminary deal with Huawei to upgrade existing mobile telecommunications gear to make it safer. Huawei has been a key supplier to KPN in the past decade.

The Dutch government set up a task force with KPN and other major operators in the Netherlands this month to analyze the "vulnerability of 5G telecommunications networks to misuse by technology vendors ... and measures needed to manage risks."

KPN said it would use equipment made by Huawei, which it described as a world leader in radio and antenna technology, to improve security on its existing network.

"This preliminary agreement can be adjusted or reversed to align it with future Dutch government policy," it added.

Sources told Reuters on Wednesday that Britain's National Security Council (NSC) had decided to bar Huawei from core parts of the country's 5G network and restrict its access to non-core areas.