Netherlands ponders restrictions on Huawei ahead of 5G auction

The Dutch government will need to make a decision this year on whether to restrict Chinese state-owned telecom giant Huawei Technologies Co. from playing a role in building a fifth-generation wireless network in the Netherlands, local daily Trouw reported.

The economy ministry is set to auction 5G mobile frequencies this autumn, with the criteria for selection depending on the government’s China strategy, due to be presented before the summer, the Dutch newspaper said on Saturday, citing a ministry spokesman. Part of the strategy to be outlined is an assessment of how the country can protect critical technology from Chinese state-owned enterprises.

The Netherlands would potentially follow allies including other European nations and the U.S., Canada and Australia if it opted to restrict the Chinese telecom firm’s operations due to concerns about Chinese state-backed espionage, the newspaper said.

Huawei, which currently delivers equipment to nearly all the Dutch telecom providers, is confronting increasing speculation that its products could be used by Beijing to spy on Western governments and companies. The smartphone maker has repeatedly denied any involvement in spying on China’s behalf.

In the latest incident involving Huawei, Polish authorities this month arrested a senior company executive on suspicion of espionage. The Chinese firm fired sales director Wang Weijing following his detention, and said it had nothing to do with his alleged actions.

Last year, the Dutch Parliament announced it will seek to build a 5G network. At the same time, the General Intelligence and Security Service warned against Chinese espionage, spurring a government probe into the telecom sector’s dependence on foreign technology.

A government spokesman confirmed to Bloomberg that the ministry aims to auction the frequencies at the end of 2019 or in early 2020.

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