EE to launch 5G on May 30: Drops Huawei from Launch

The fallout from the United States ban on Huawei is now having its first major effect on upcoming smartphones from the Chinese company in the UK.

EE and Vodafone have announced that they have pulled Huawei’s phones from their 5G network launch, joining other global telecoms groups in dropping launch plans after the Chinese group was hit by a US export ban that could stop it using Google’s Android operating system.

EE had planned to offer Huawei phones as part of its 5G launch on Wednesday of the UK’s first 5G network, but decided to “pause” this because of “uncertainty” regarding Google having the ability to provide future versions of its Android system to Huawei.

The handsets available will include the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, One Plus’s 7 Pro 5G and Oppo’s Reno 5G phones.

EE’s new 5G mobile plans will be available to pre-order from Wednesday, ahead of the launch next week.

Vodafone also said it would suspend Huawei’s Mate X 5G phone from its 5G line-up. Vodafone had planned to launch the handset in July on its 5G network, but a spokesman said on Wednesday that “Huawei’s 5G handset is yet to receive the necessary certifications”.

Marc Allera, chief executive of EE, said the company had “paused” the launch of Huawei’s 5G phones because it did not have the “surety of service” it needed to offer long-term contracts. “We’ve had to hold that back,” he said.

Two of Japan’s largest mobile phone carriers also said they would delay the launch of a new smartphone by Huawei as global mobile operators scrambled to deal with the proposed US export restrictions on the Chinese telecoms equipment maker.

The decision on Wednesday by SoftBank and KDDI will affect the Huawei P30 Lite smartphone, which was due to go on sale in Japan on Friday. NTT DoCoMo, Japan’s largest carrier, said it was also considering cancelling pre-orders for the Huawei handset.

The company will, however, continue to use Huawei, alongside Ericsson, for the radio equipment for its 5G network despite the political debate around the use of the Chinese company’s equipment and its supply chain issues following the move by US authorities to put it on to the entity list.

Allera said EE has tested its 5G network using Huawei technology and has had “no indications” from the UK government to change course. He said the supply chain restrictions were a concern but that the UK would not benefit from a lengthy delay to 5G launches while the situation is being resolved.

“There are so many scenarios and we don’t have any clarity. But we can’t stand still,” he said. “Nothing is crystal clear but we have to work within that ambiguity.”

EE has fought to be the first to launch 5G networks against Vodafone, which goes live in July.  EE will charge a premium for the faster network of about £5 and has partnered with Google and Niantic, the company behind Pokémon Go that has developed a Harry Potter-themed game, for the launch.

It will initially launch 5G in six cities – London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester.

Bristol, Coventry, Leicester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Liverpool, Hull, Leeds, Newcastle and Glasgow will receive in 2019.

This will rise to 50 by next summer as the company looks to upgrade 100 sites a month.

The initial version of 5G will be the equivalent of an enhanced 4G network offering speeds 10 times faster than today’s smartphones. Its full 5G network will be launched in 2022 with ultra-low latency services available in 2023.

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