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SFR and Bouygues fail to shoot down the French ploy to eject Huawei from 5G

SFR and Bouygues Telecom were seeking to counter the implementing decrees of the so-called anti-Huawei law. The Council of State has showered their hopes.

Bouygues Telecom and SFR are exhausting their legal cartridges against the so-called anti-Huawei law, to no avail. While the text of the law was already declared compliant in February by the Constitutional Council, it is now the turn of the Council of State to kill the hopes of the two French operators. According to information Echoes of April 8, their requests were rejected.

The two companies are very upset against this law, which is officially called law ” aimed at preserving the interests of the defense and national security of France in the context of the operation of mobile radio networks “. While it was written in such a way as not to target a specific OEM, the circumstances in which it was designed leave no doubt about its target: Huawei.

The Chinese equipment manufacturer has for almost two years been accused, in particular by the United States, of being a threat to national security. The group has consistently rejected these allegations, without much success, at least in the West. Many countries believe that China is taking advantage of Huawei’s leadership in 5G to have the possibility of using it as a tool of influence, or even of nuisance.

5G Bouygues Telecom
Bouygues Telecom and SFR relied heavily on Huawei for 5G, but a French law thwarted their plans. // Source: Melvyn Dadure for Numerama

Legally, SFR and Bouygues Telecom did not directly target the law, but the texts which allow it to take effect. At the end of 2019, the government published a decree and a decree to this effect. Priority questions of constitutionality in an attempt to counter them had been accepted in November 2020 by the Council of State. They had been formulated a few months earlier, in June.

Before the highest court of the French administrative order, report Les Échos, the two operators have summoned European law and the European Convention on Human Rights, without success. However, the door remained open to try to obtain compensation. Clearly, there is a way to play to try to get compensation, since they are forced to change equipment.

No official ban on Huawei

It turns out that in France, SFR and Bouygues Telecom rely heavily on Huawei. Each uses half of the equipment provided by the Chinese company for their mobile network. Free and Orange are much less dependent on this supplier. If internationally, they buy equipment from it, this is not, or little, the case in France. For 5G, Orange and Free are betting on Nokia and Ericsson.

In theory, this law does not prohibit operators from calling on Huawei to build 5G networks in France. However, the mechanism imagined in France is clever: it is based on a system of prior authorization. Clearly, the Prime Minister must give the green light, enlightened by the services of the State. It is all the more skillful since silence is also worth refusal, which can prevent Matignon from exposing himself.

In fact, this stratagem makes it possible to filter authorizations upstream, and by addressing requests concerning Huawai equipment either with a refusal or a silence. In fact, this will gradually lead operators to replace the facilities provided by the Chinese telecoms giant with European alternatives. According to Bouygues Telecom, this changeover should take eight years.

Sure: you are paying too much for your 4G plan


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