There's got to be Huawei we can defeat Chinese tech giant, thinks US attorney-general. Aha, let's buy stake in Ericsson and Nokia

Bell me to chat about it, eh?

US attorney-general William Barr has urged the United States to buy a controlling stake in Nokia and Ericsson to build a competitor to Huawei.

In a speech made at the DoJ's China Initiative Conference in Washington, the nation's legal advisor in chief said America and its allies need to be "actively considering" proposals for "American ownership of a controlling stake, either directly or through a consortium of private American and allied companies."

In recent months, Washington has pressured allies to not use Huawei equipment in their 5G networks. The US said that using the Chinese company's gear enables Beijing to conduct surveillance and intelligence gathering. Huawei has repeatedly denied the allegations.

Last week, the EU resisted pressure from the US and agreed to let members individually decide whether they would use the Chinese company's gear in their 5G infrastructure. The UK government recently restricted Huawei gear to 35 per cent of its non-core networks.

In the speech, Barr notes that the US has no companies that can compete with Huawei's dominance."The Chinese are using every lever of power to expand their 5G market share around the globe. It is estimated that the total market for 5G infrastructure is $76bn. China is offering over $100bn in incentives to finance customers' purchases of its equipment. This means that the Chinese can offer customers to build their 5G networks for no money down."

He ruled out Open RAN, an open-source alternative developed in the US, as "just a pie in the sky". He notes that the technology is untested and "would not be ready for prime time for a decade, if ever."

Without any US players, Barr is pushing for Nokia and Ericsson as the "only two companies that can compete with Huawei right now."

"Putting our large market and financial muscle behind one or both of these firms would make it a more formidable competitor and eliminate concerns over its staying power," he said. "We and our closest allies certainly need to be actively considering this approach," he said.

Earlier today, Reuters reported that Deutsche Telekom has told Nokia it would need to shape up to win back its business after the telecoms operator dropped the Finnish firm's gear from all but a dozen networks.

Europe's largest telco held several meetings with Nokia last year, finding it the worst performer among all suppliers in 5G tests and deployments, according briefing documents for top managers.

But faced with a threat of restrictions on Huawei, the company's primary supplier of network equipment, Deutsche Telekom has decided to give Nokia another go.

A briefing note for a meeting between Deutsche Telekom managers and Nokia chairman Risto Siilasmaa in November said "assurances have been received" from the Finnish company, without giving details.

Deutsche Telekom is due to present its updated 5G strategy, including where they source their gear from, to the board after Mobile World Congress at the end of the month.

Huawei and Ericsson did not respond to The Register's requests for comment. ®

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