July 20, 2020
With the dust still settling in the wake of the bruising UK contest, the Huawei battlefront is now shifting to Southeast Asia.
Multiple launches are scheduled in the next six months and, unlike in Europe, Huawei looks set to dominate.
But the big vendor appears to have the inside running in every other Southeast Asian market, including the longstanding US allies Philippines and Thailand.
In the Philippines, Huawei is poised to make a clean sweep.
Globe Telecom, the biggest operator by subscriber numbers, began its 5G home broadband service last year using Huawei equipment.
In telling remarks to legislators earlier this month, Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, the chief of Globe parent Ayala, said the company has had "an excellent relationship" with the Chinese firm.
"I do think they are a leader in 5G technology and we should be allowed to use their facilities," he said.
Manny Pangilinan, head of rival PLDT, announced the selection of Huawei and "a bit" of Ericsson as 5G suppliers last December, citing the extensive presence of Huawei in its legacy networks.
The incoming Philippines player, Dito Telecommunity, is a JV with China Telecom and, although well behind schedule, is certain to select Huawei and possibly ZTE.
In response, the US has made a last-minute pitch to the Philippines, a treaty ally, with Department of State Undersecretary Keith Krach holding out the possibility of US subsidies to help telcos switch.
The US and other countries had "a lot of financing tools" to help operators make the transition away from Huawei, "because we recognize this danger," Krach told Philippines media last month. However he did not elaborate.
In Thailand, Singtel-invested AIS, the market leader, expects to invest up to 45 billion baht (US$1.42 billion) on infrastructure this year. It has shortlisted all major five 5G vendors – Huawei, Ericsson, Nokia, ZTE and Samsung – ahead of its tender.
In neighboring Malaysia, despite a chaotic licensing process, three operators are set to go with Huawei.
The only market where Huawei 5G isn't likely to be deployed in the near future is the region's most populous country, Indonesia.
That's because it is still in the middle of the 4G cycle and won't be rolling out 5G for another two or three years.
For more on this topic, see:
— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading
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