Home5G & BeyondBouygues Telecom and SFR sue government in pursuit of Huawei-ness

    Bouygues Telecom and SFR sue government in pursuit of Huawei-ness


    Je déchire, il remplace, tu rembourses

    French mobile operators Bouygues Telecom and SFR are seeking compensation from the French government over the expense involved in the enforced rip and replacement of equipment from Chinese manufacturers. The order was passed by the Administrative Court of Paris in 2019 and primarily affected operators who had built their comms infrastructure with Huawei equipment in strategic locations (pictured).

    Reports in French news outlet L’Informe say the replacement of Huawei equipment with the equivalent from Ericsson or Nokia was a painfully expensive process for both Bouygues Telecom and SFR, with unforeseen complications that created even greater costs than they had originally planned for. These tribulations were enforced by the State after a period of indecision that was to add extra expense to the process. In 2020, while the UK, for example, decisively imposed an outright ban on Huawei equipment, albeit under pressure from the US, the more independent minded French government had refused to make the same commitment. Instead, administratrs of security policy opted compromise with a policy that called for the replacement of Huawei kit in strategically located areas, namely in densely populated areas where the vendor’s equipment was prominent.

    However, this only delayed the inevitable and the embedding of Chinese technology made the costs of retrospective removal even greater. Not long after this decision, a new law noted that any new or renewed mobile equipment licenses would need to be backed by France’s cybersecurity agency ANSSI, reported Data Center Dynamics. But shortly after this announcement, ANSSI said it was unlikely to give such permission for Huawei equipment, essentially issuing a de facto ban on Huawei’s kit by 2028.

    Both Bouygues and SFR contested the decision at the time, since Huawei radio access network equipment formed the cornerstone of their 5G network building plans. The telcos now want to recoup the costs involved in ripping out and replacing the Huawei equipment, which both companies have been doing since 2021. Bouygues has estimated its costs at €82 million (£72.25m), arguing that this only covers a small portion of the 3,000 antennas that will need to be replaced by 2028. SFR has not yet disclosed its compensation request, but the operator needs to replace many more antennas, an estimated 8,000, so its damages claim may be proportionately higher.