ELVERUM, Norway (Reuters) - Norway does not plan to block China’s Huawei Technologies from building the country’s 5G telecoms network, cabinet minister Nikolai Astrup told Reuters, a decision that puts it at odds with NATO ally the United States.
The United States has alleged Huawei’s equipment could be used by Beijing for spying, which the Chinese firm has repeatedly denied. U.S. firms are barred from using some of the firm’s equipment and Washington is putting pressure on other countries to follow suit.
“We have a good dialogue with the companies on security, and then it is up to the companies themselves to choose suppliers. We haven’t got any bans against any suppliers in Norway,” said cabinet minister Nikolai Astrup, who spearheads the government’s digital strategy.
In January then justice minister Tor Mikkel Wara said banning Huawei was under consideration.
“We share the same concerns as the United States and Britain and that is espionage on private and state actors in Norway,” Wara told Reuters at the time.
Asked whether there could be actions taken against Huawei specifically, Wara had said: “Yes, we are considering the steps taken in other countries, that is part of it - the steps taken in the United States and Britain.”
Wara later left the cabinet due to an unrelated matter.
State-controlled Telenor (TEL.OL), Norway’s largest telecoms provider, plans to pick 5G technology suppliers this year to prepare for commercial rollout in 2020.
The company, which has 182 million subscribers across eight countries in Europe and Asia, signed its first major contract with Huawei in 2009, a deal that helped pave way for the Chinese firm’s global expansion.
“We are talking to everybody, everyone is in the process, and we will have to see what we choose in the end. We continue to have a good dialogue with the government,” said Petter-Boerre Furberg, who heads Telenor’s domestic operation.
“We are running a process that is open to all partners.”
Asked what would happen were Telenor to be blacklisted by the United States if it used Huawei components, Furberg replied: “That is a purely hypothetical question.”
In Elverum, Telenor is developing what it said was Scandinavia’s largest 5G pilot, using equipment provided by Ericsson (ERICb.ST). It runs separate trials elsewhere with equipment from both Nokia (NOKIA.HE) and Huawei.
The U.S. embassy in Oslo was not immediately available for comment.
Writing by Terje Solsvik and Gwladys Fouche; Editing by David Goodman and Elaine Hardcastle