TIM reportedly says arrivederci to Huawei

Huawei is losing another friend in Europe, if press reports that it has been shown the door by Italy's TIM prove to be correct.

Mary Lennighan

April 30, 2021

2 Min Read
Italy smartphone

Huawei is losing another friend in Europe, if press reports that it has been shown the door by Italy’s TIM prove to be correct.

The Italian incumbent is squeezing Huawei out of its 5G RAN contract, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing the usual unnamed sources and crediting Italian financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore as the first to break the news.

TIM has informed the Chinese vendor by letter that it intends to call off the equipment supply contract, the newswire said. Neither TIM nor Huawei passed comment.

Huawei’s involvement in TIM’s 5G rollout has been precarious for some time. It was left out of the telco’s tender for 5G core equipment in both Italy and Brazil last summer, again according to Reuters’ sources. TIM initially involved it in the RAN portion of the network, intending to split the contract between Huawei and Ericsson, but late last year added Nokia into the mix, apparently diluting Huawei’s share. Now it seems Huawei is to be left out in the cold entirely, with Ericsson and Nokia sharing the spoils.

One of Reuters’ sources said that TIM’s decision follows a review of its supply policy, including a cost and benefit analysis, which actually doesn’t tell us very much at all. And it is logical to speculate that the benefit analysis may well have included the fact that Ericsson and Nokia do not come with a heavy national security threat cloud over their heads.

There has been talk of the Italian government formally banning Huawei, or Chinese vendors in general, from the 5G market, much like the UK has done, but to date nothing has come of it. However, the state last year extended its so-called golden power regime and as such has the right to intervene in deals with non-EU vendors covering the acquisition of goods or services related to 5G technology. However you dress it up, that doesn’t look good for Huawei and its domestic rivals.

TIM, meanwhile, has thrown its hat into the Open RAN ring, a move that will doubtless find favour with Palazzo Chigi.

It trumpeted a small deployment in Faenza, a city of around 60,000 people in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, highlighting its supplier diversification efforts in particular. This 4G deployment comprised software from US-based JMA Wireless and radio units provided by Microelectronics Technology (MTI) of Taiwan. “Going forward, this venture will also extend to 5G solutions,” TIM said.

Perhaps Huawei is not the only one starting to feel left out in Italy.

About the Author(s)

Mary Lennighan

Mary has been following developments in the telecoms industry for more than 20 years. She is currently a freelance journalist, having stepped down as editor of Total Telecom in late 2017; her career history also includes three years at CIT Publications (now part of Telegeography) and a stint at Reuters. Mary's key area of focus is on the business of telecoms, looking at operator strategy and financial performance, as well as regulatory developments, spectrum allocation and the like. She holds a Bachelor's degree in modern languages and an MA in Italian language and literature.

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