PARIS -- France has informed wireless operators of a de facto ban on using equipment from Huawei Technologies, according to multiple media reports, becoming the latest Western nation to block the Chinese company from its 5G infrastructure.
The move is likely to harm relations with Beijing and comes just days after the U.K. announced its own ban following an international campaign by Washington accusing Chinese tech companies of posing national security risks.
ANSSI, France's national cybersecurity agency, told operators this month that it will only grant licenses authorizing use of Huawei equipment for three to eight years. The licenses will not be renewed once they expire.
In other words, ANSSI has essentially given telecommunications operators until 2028 to eliminate Huawei equipment from their networks. Carriers Bouygues Telecom and SFR will likely be pressed to comply with the order since they both sourced 4G tech from the Chinese supplier.
French government officials said as this week that there would be no blanket ban against Huawei. Authorities, however, have been looking deeply into the risks of data breaches and other security risks. A law went into effect last year that placed telecoms offering 5G under stricter screening processes.
The French government has sought to launch 5G services in urban centers this year, but this decision may delay efforts toward a nationwide network.
Tensions between France and China have escalated this year. A diplomatic spat erupted in April over inflammatory posts against France about the coronavirus made by the Chinese Embassy. The Hong Kong national security law added fuel to the fire.
French officials have also condemned China's treatment of the Uighurs. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the alleged abuse against the Muslim minority ethnic group was "revolting and unacceptable" during a radio interview Tuesday.
The move by France against Huawei echoes similar measures taken by the U.K., which decided last week to phase Huawei out from its 5G network by 2027. This reverses a previous policy that allows Huawei equipment peripheral access to the infrastructure.
This comes amid a U.S.-led pressure campaign against Huawei, and the pursuit by hard-liners to decouple the U.S. from China. This May, the U.S. Commerce Department tightened restrictions on trade with Huawei.
The sanctions cut off Huawei from much-needed chips, and it raised additional concerns that the company cannot guarantee security.
This month, the head of ANSSI said it weighed the risks posed by non-European suppliers against that of European counterparts. The agency is expected to recommend 5G contracts with Ericsson and Nokia, based in Sweden and Finland respectively.
Liu Xiaoming, China's ambassador to the U.K., called the blacklisting of Huawei by the British government a "disappointing and wrong decision," in a tweet. Similar condemnations against France will likely follow.
While Britain and France have aligned somewhat with the U.S. in shunning Huawei, places such as Spain are willing to deal with the maligned telecom supplier, creating a split in attitude among European countries.