Monaco on Tuesday became the first nation in Europe to inaugurate a 5G mobile phone network based on technology from Chinese firm Huawei Technologies Co Ltd (華為), which is seen by the US as a major security risk.
As mobile operators shift away from slower 3G and 4G networks, Europe has been torn over its approach to the Chinese giant, which is a pioneer in 5G technology.
In September last year, Monaco Telecom, which is owned by French billionaire Xavier Niel, signed an agreement with Huawei to make the tiny principality the first nation in Europe fully covered by 5G.
“We are the first state to be entirely covered by a 5G network,” Monaco Telecom president Etienne Franzi said at the inauguration ceremony.
“In Monaco, the 5G is the promise of a better quality of life for all and exceptional opportunities,” Monaco Country Chief Digital Officer Frederic Genta said.
For Huawei vice president Guo Ping (郭平), the rollout in Monaco is a major opportunity, despite the small size of territory covered.
“It allows us to make a shop window in a number of areas, notably linking 5G development to this intelligent state,” he said. “It can serve as a model for other operators and states.”
Monaco Telecom director-general Martin Peronnet in May defended the decision to work with the Chinese supplier.
“There are many countries and operators that are in the process of finalizing a 5G rollout with Huawei or who have already done so,” he said.
Before the deployment, the operator worked to update its equipment and deploy 5G-compatible antennae, saying that it had put in place the necessary security measures to protect its systems.
Huawei’s involvement in 5G networks has become an increasingly political issue after Washington raised concerns over potential security risks and pushed its closest allies to reject the Chinese firm.
The company says it has signed 50 contracts for 5G worldwide, including 28 with European operators.
South Korea has already announced complete nationwide 5G coverage, while smaller Europe nations such as Switzerland, Finland and Estonia have only just started deploying the technology.
Germany is only now handing out frequencies to operators and France should follow in the final quarter of the year.
Last month, an internal report by the GSM Association, which represents mobile network operators around the world, found that banning Huawei and fellow Chinese equipment maker ZTE Corp (中興通訊) from Europe’s 5G rollout would cost European operators up to 55 billion euros (US$61.69 billion).
It would also slow down the rollout of 5G networks in Europe and lead to reduced take-up, which would further increase the productivity gap between the EU and the US, the report said.
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