AT&T will likely phase out Huawei gear from its cellular networks in Mexico when the operator upgrades those networks to 5G, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal this week. The news highlights some of the complexities in the dispute between the U.S. government and China-based network equipment vendor Huawei.
At the U.S. government's behest, AT&T has agreed to stop using Huawei products in 5G network build-outs in the U.S. But the company continues to rely on Huawei gear for its 4G network in Mexico. The WSJ report noted that AT&T inherited much of the Huawei gear through acquisitions in the country but said it has also used new Huawei products in upgrading parts of the network.
The U.S. government has not yet asked AT&T or any other U.S. carriers to remove Huawei gear from their networks outside the U.S.
An AT&T spokesperson told WSJ that the company has since replaced Huawei products in its data core network in Mexico with equipment from the same vendors it uses in the U.S. in order to achieve “consistency in design and scale in purchasing.”
The spokesperson also said that AT&T “[expects] to harmonize our networks in the same way when we upgrade to 5G in Mexico,” according to WSJ. That could mean that AT&T will phase out Huawei gear in Mexico when it upgrades the network to 5G.
Last month, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson lamented to an audience in Washington, D.C., that Huawei 4G equipment is only interoperable with Huawei’s 5G equipment.
“If you have deployed Huawei as your 4G network, Huawei is not allowing interoperability to 5G—meaning if you are 4G, you are stuck with Huawei for 5G,” said Stephenson. His remarks were made in reference to the ongoing discussion in Europe on whether to ban Huawei products. A number of European countries have opted instead to increase security requirements for its equipment vendors, rather than ban Huawei outright.
Mexico, however, has not announced any intentions of banning Huawei. Huawei has struck four wireless infrastructure contracts in Mexico since 2011, the WSJ said. AT&T entered the market in 2015 when it acquired Iusacell and Nextel Mexico.