Can telecom operators do without Huawei in France? In the sector, it is almost a rhetorical question, as the Chinese giant, present for more than fifteen years in France, has managed to weave its web
despite the distrust it has aroused for years in the United States.
Today, the world's leading equipment supplier (with 31% of the market, according to Dell'Oro and) is present on half of the SFR and Bouygues Telecom networks.
Free and Orange use the two other equipment manufacturers on the market, Ericsson and Nokia. Without being able to close the door on principle to the Chinese giant. " We will not choose Huawei for our 5G network cores (the most sensitive part, note) but for other equipment, things are open, recently admitted Stéphane Richard, the CEO of Orange who sources from Huawei outside of France. It is not by blocking the world number one that France will increase its competitiveness ".
It must be said that the thirty-something Chinese group is the only equipment manufacturer in the world to be present on the entire value chain, from equipment to smartphones. Long very competitive before raising its prices, it is also the only one, with Nokia, to provide equipment for both fixed and mobile. It is also a champion of research, with 14% of turnover devoted to R & D in 2018 and 80,000 researchers (i.e. 45% of the total workforce), including a hundred mathematicians in Paris.
In general opinion, Huawei's hardware is very technologically efficient. " These are very good quality products, with few bugs. When there are, they are settled very quickly "Says an industrial source close to the matter. In terms of speed, its 5G equipment can reach 1.2 Gigabit per second.
Opposite, Nokia was penalized by a wave of acquisitions (merger with Alcatel-Lucent in 2015) which forced it to manage many organizational problems. Ericsson, meanwhile, has two years of losses
before returning to the green in late 2018,
but only after having separated from 15% of its employees.
The only major equipment manufacturer not to be listed on the stock market, Huawei was given a free hand to be able to invest very early in 5G, far from the pressures of the financial markets. " Huawei's 5G prototypes were tested a year and a half ago, while other manufacturers are just starting to test them, explains the aforementioned source. There is a maturity gap. On some projects, it makes all the difference ".
No compatibility between manufacturers
The group has sold more than 600,000 5G base stations, mainly in China,
a huge market that allowed it to test its equipment on a large scale.
Overall, Huawei has secured more than 60 5G contracts (including 20 with European operators), against 74 for Ericsson and 50 for Nokia. But the comparison is indicative, the equipment manufacturers do not communicate on the value of these contracts.
In France, dismantle Huawei equipment from current 4G networks,
in case the administration, through Anssi, prohibits Chinese for 5G,
could require two years of work and cost operators several billion euros. Operators cannot superimpose 5G equipment on 4G equipment from another manufacturer.