Technology

Colombia says it won't ban Huawei's 5G as the company forges ahead in Latin America

Chinese Huawei is willing to offer the technology to Latin American countries such as Brazil and Colombia, but faces US scrutiny regarding espionage

Huawei 5G logo on a smartphone screen
Photo: Shutterstock
  • In Brazil, the company is running tests with the country’s four main carriers;
  • In Colombia, besides Huawei, Mexican telecommunications corporation América Móvil is also interested in providing the technology;
  • Huawei has already been predicting a drop in smartphone sales this year due to the US ban forbidding partnerships with Google and other companies.

Latin America is expected to start offering 5G networks as early as next year, as Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, and Ecuador are scheduling their respective auctions in order to launch the technology. And not by chance, companies like the Chinese powerhouse Huawei and Mexican telecommunications corporation América Móvil are watching this as closely as possible, willing to provide their technologies to support the 5G implementation in such countries.

But the U.S. is also watching this closely: the country has been accusing Huawei of espionage activity at the behest of the Chinese government, claiming that countries shouldn’t allow the company to bring its 5G technology, due to security reasons.

“If there were any kind of leaks [in the service of espionage], the carriers would know,” said Marcelo Motta, Digital Operation Transformation Carrier Marketing Director at Huawei in a statement to journalists, as reported by Brazilian media outlet Valor.

In Colombia’s case, Sylvia Constaín, Minister of Information Technologies and Communications, said that restricting Huawei or other companies to take part in the 5G auction is not in the plans. “We have criteria that apply in a non-discriminatory way in general,” she stated, as informed by Colombian La Republica.

The Minister has also disclosed that Colombia is currently choosing among more than 40 proposals for small scale 5G projects. Besides Huawei and América Móvil, companies such as Millicom International Cellular SA and the Spanish Telefónica SA, would also be interested in providing the 5G network for the Latin American country.

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Huawei, which is already testing pilots of the 5G technology with the four main carriers in Brazil – Telefônica, TIM, Claro and, Oi – stressed that the firm is a “private company”, unrelated to the Beijing authorities. The statement was made on the occasion of Huawei’s alleged proximity to the Chinese government, which would be interested in taking advantage of industrial espionage.

For the company’s global director of business network consulting for Latin America, Carlos Guillermo Solomon, the country would have a lot to lose if it imposed a barrier to Huawei’s 5G network. “We are two years ahead of our competitors, due to the investments we made in advance,” he affirmed.

Aiming at creating new jobs and helping transform the country’s economy, President Iván Duque’s administration has also been working to develop mobile network coverage throughout Colombia, from isolated mountain communities in the Andes to the jungle region of the Pacific coast.

“With the digital transformation, AI programs, and the 5G plan in Colombia, we are now at the forefront, and no longer outdated”, Sylvia Constaín stressed in an interview. Colombia’s 5G auction is planned to happen by the end of 2020 or early next year, according to the Minister.