Nokia disavows CTO Weldon’s comments on risk of Huawei 5G equipment

Nokia sign at MWC18
Nokia has distanced itself from comments made by the vendor’s technology chief, who warned of risks to 5G networks if the UK used equipment from competitor Huawei. (Monica Alleven/FierceWireless)

Nokia on Friday distanced itself from comments made by the vendor’s Chief Technology Officer Marcus Weldon during an interview with the BBC, in which he warned of risks to 5G networks if the U.K. used equipment from Chinese competitor Huawei.

In a statement, Nokia said Weldon’s comments on the possible impact of using a competitor’s products on the security of U.K. networks “do not reflect the official position of Nokia.”

“Nokia is focused on the integrity of its own products and services and does not have its own assessment of any potential vulnerabilities associated with its competitors,” the Finnish vendor added.

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In the interview with BBC, Weldon said Nokia’s equipment was “a safer bet” and pointed to a recent study from IoT security firm Finite State, which found several cyber-security risks embedded within Huawei enterprise equipment, and concluded Huawei devices “pose a quantifiable high risk to their users.”

RELATED: Huawei’s 5G RAN portfolio beats Ericsson, Nokia and others, report says

Speaking to BBC, Weldon said: “"Some of it seems to be just sloppiness, honestly, that they haven't patched things, they haven't upgraded. But, some of it is real obfuscation, where they make it look like they have the secure version when they don't."

He warned that vulnerabilities in Huawei equipment were serious. While Weldon acknowledged Nokia equipment is not subject to the same scrutiny in the U.K. as Huawei, he said it is subject to similar checks around the world.

The security of Huawei telecom equipment has come under scrutiny, with the United States pressing allies to keep the Chinese vendor’s gear out of next-generation networks over concerns of risks to national security and the threat of potential state-backed espionage.

Huawei, which has inked 50 commercial 5G contracts around the world, denies its equipment poses security risks and a spokesman told BBC Weldon’s comments were “misleading.”

Weldon also said pressure from the U.S. was helping to return fairness in the market, indicating Huawei had unfair financial advantages compared to Nokia.

"We were disadvantaged in the past relative to the practices that the Chinese were allowed to have in terms of funding mechanisms," Weldon told BBC.

RELATED: U.S. tech companies find workaround of Huawei export ban: report

In May, the U.S. Department of Commerce added Huawei to its entity list, barring export of U.S.-made technology and services to the Chinese vendor.  News reports this week indicated some large U.S. tech companies including Qualcomm, Intel and Micron, had resumed certain shipments to Huawei after finding ways to do so while still complying with export restrictions.

The government is also considering how to handle existing telecom network equipment that could pose a security risk. FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks said a “rip and replace” approach may be necessary, which would impact smaller and rural operators that rely on Huawei equipment.

A Thursday report from CoBank Knowledge Exchange Division pegged the actual cost of removing all Huawei equipment from existing U.S. networks at more than $1 billion.




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