Huawei finds an ally in Vodafone, the world's second-largest mobile operator

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Vodafone chief executive officer Nick Read speaks at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona on February 25, 2019. - Phone makers will focus on foldable screens and the introduction of blazing fast 5G wireless networks at the world's biggest mobile fair starting February 25 in Spain as they try to reverse a decline in sales of smartphones. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP) (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)

LLUIS GENE | AFP | Getty Images

Vodafone chief executive officer Nick Read speaks at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona on February 25, 2019. – Phone makers will focus on foldable screens and the introduction of blazing fast 5G wireless networks at the world’s biggest mobile fair starting February 25 in Spain as they try to reverse a decline in sales of smartphones. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP) (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)

The CEO of the world’s second-largest mobile operator warned excluding Huawei from Europe’s 5G networks could be “hugely disruptive” to national infrastructure and consumers, comments that will likely be welcomed by the Chinese company as it faces possible equipment bans around the world.

Speaking at a press conference at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona Monday, Vodafone CEO Nick Read said banning Huawei from providing 5G infrastructure in Europe would hamper competition in the supply chain. China’s Huawei, Finland’s Nokia and Sweden’s Ericsson are the three biggest providers of telecommunications equipment in the world, accounting for more than half of revenues in the market, according to research firm Dell’Oro Group.

“If we concentrate it down to two players I think that’s an unhealthy position not just for us as an industry but also for national infrastructure in the country,” Read said.

Read added that it would be “very very expensive” for operators and consumers if companies were forced to swap their Huawei equipment in favor of competitors’, adding it would delay Europe’s 5G rollout by “probably two years.”

“It structurally disadvantages Europe,” he said “Of course the U.S. don’t have that problem because they don’t put Huawei equipment in.”

Huawei is the world’s largest telecommunications equipment provider and has captured key markets by offering high-tech gear at a lower cost than its rivals.

But the company has effectively been left out of the U.S. market with officials citing concerns that its technology could enable spying from the Chinese government, accusations Huawei denies. In addition to the U.S., the U.K. and Germany are weighing possible bans on Huawei’s 5G equipment citing security risks.

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