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Top Belgium telecoms firm drops Huawei

Belgium’s dominant telecom operator Proximus said Friday that it will gradually replace its equipment from the Chinese manufacturer Huawei with products from Finnish supplier Nokia and Sweden’s Ericsson.

The sensitive decision comes at a time when the United States is heaping pressure on its European allies to shun equipment from Chinese firms in developing their 5G networks.

The Belgian capital Brussels hosts the headquarters of the NATO military alliance as well as the European Union, making network security a high priority for authorities.

Proximus said it made its choice “on the basis of technological, operational, financial and environmental criteria,” but observers suspect political pressure may have brought the decision.

Washington believes Huawei gear could give Chinese authorities a back door into networks that would allow it not only to spy on government secrets but also sweep up vast amounts of personal data.

Other countries including Britain, Australia, New Zealand and India have already taken a hard line against Huawei, and France and Italy have announced severe limits on its gear for 5G networks.