Although the U.S. global offensive against Huawei will not affect the choice of developing countries in Africa, the campaign to block participation by the Chinese company in 5G development will hurt the interests of emerging markets, industry representatives said on Monday.
On the first day of the Mobile World Congress (MWC), the annual telecoms industry gathering in Barcelona, Spain, Huawei's main exhibition hall was full of attendees from not only European countries but also developing nations such as Malawi, Zambia and Angola.
Danny Luswili, board chairperson of Zamtel, also known as Zambia Telecommunications Co, spent his time learning more about the newest 5G customer premises equipment (CPE) unveiled by Huawei at the event. "We see they're already advanced in the ICT industry … and they're bringing a lot of things to Zambia," he said, noting that the Chinese company has been playing a significant role in building 4G networks in the local market and providing cloud services to the government.
Telecoms carriers are not willing to invest heavily in remote areas, as costs of building networks are usually high with low investment returns. But this is not the case for Huawei, which has been exploring developing markets for years by offering low-cost solutions.
For instance, in a rural area in Kenya, Huawei launched a solution in 2017 that combines innovations in both technology and tower design, and helped 500 people get connected for the first time. Total operation costs of the project are also more than 50 percent lower compared to traditional sites.
Zamtel has been working with Huawei for about four years. Luswill told the Global Times that "there's no doubt" the Chinese firm will lead in 5G.
While the U.S. government has been lobbying against Huawei by citing security concerns, African representatives believe it is not an issue for them.
"We don't have any concerns about their products that they offer to us," the Zambian businessman said.
Still, emerging markets are paying attention to the U.S.-led crackdown on Huawei.
When Malawi authorities hear a superpower like the U.S. is worried about Huawei, they wonder what "the Americans are seeing that we can't see," Henry Mussa, Minister of Information and Communications Technology of Malawi, told the Global Times.
"We'd like to believe that there's nothing to worry about," he said.
Locking out Huawei, the largest telecoms equipment provider worldwide, from 5G deployments will also deprive emerging markets from developing the next generation of wireless technologies, as fewer players in the market will drive up the costs, which will become unaffordable for those markets, industry representatives said.