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5G networks

Huawei officially lands role in Malaysia's 5G rollout

Local partner Maxis 'aware' of warnings but does not 'see any issues'

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, second from right, attends a ceremony held to seal Maxis' deal with Huawei on Oct. 3. (Photo by P Prem Kumar)

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia -- Huawei Technologies has officially become a hardware supplier for Malaysia's 5G network rollout, marking a break for the Chinese telecom equipment provider after it was locked out of several markets over espionage fears.

Huawei on Thursday inked a formal agreement with Maxis -- one of Malaysia's major telecommunications companies -- to provide 5G radio equipment, services and knowledge to help build the country's ultrafast network. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad witnessed the signing ceremony in his office.

Maxis CEO Gokhan Ogut said the company is confident about its partnership with Huawei, despite being "aware" of the sanctions the Chinese company has faced in a number of developed economies. Huawei is dogged by suspicions that its technology could be used by China for spying, fueled in part by founder Ren Zhengfei's links to the Communist Party.

The U.S., U.K., Australia and New Zealand have banned Huawei from participating in their fifth-generation networks.

But Maxis seems comfortable with the arrangement.

"Huawei is a long-term partner for Maxis," Ogut said. "Our 4G network was [enabled] by Huawei's technology, so I don't see any issues moving forward." He said Malaysians will be able to enjoy 5G services by the end of next year, after the government releases the 5G-compatible spectrum allocation.

Huawei Malaysia CEO Michael Yuan said the Chinese company continues to win awards and contracts from countries eager to introduce 5G, despite resistance from the West.

"Even last week, we were given an award by Cybersecurity Malaysia for excellence," he added.

The agreement sealed today follows a memorandum of understanding inked between both parties to launch full-fledged 5G trials. Under the deal, Huawei will supply 4G LTE and 5G radio equipment and services. Besides access to 5G technology, Maxis will be able to modernize its existing LTE network to make it 5G-ready.

Ogut said Maxis will also obtain insights, standards, products and solutions that will make 5G easier to deploy and operate in Malaysia. "Huawei will also be putting together a strong team of experts to support Maxis on a series of technical training programs on planning, operations and maintenance of the 5G network," he said.

5G is considered the next iteration of mobile connectivity. It is expected to drive a host a cutting-edge products including autonomous vehicles and smart home devices, thanks to rapid transmission speeds, while improving rural internet connectivity.

But Huawei has faced numerous roadblocks in its efforts to capitalize on international 5G demand. U.S. President Donald Trump's administration has warned other advanced economies that the company's 5G equipment may contain "back doors" that could be used for cyberespionage.

Late last year, pieces of equipment supplied by Huawei were removed from an emergency services communications system developed in the U.K. Germany has stopped short of banning Huawei from its 5G network but was reported to be considering strict security standards that might keep the Chinese company out anyway. The largest telecom company in the Netherlands has indicated that Huawei will not be allowed to supply core 5G equipment, but that it is open to procuring "less-sensitive products."

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