Banning Huawei will create a vacuum that no one can fill in a timely fashion and may seriously push back 5G deployments across Europe, said a prominent Austrian lawyer.
Georg Zanger, a business and defense lawyer who has publicly opposed right-wing extremism, said on Thursday here that without Huawei, Europeans would be thrown back in crucial 5G technology in terms of time and cost.
"Nobody has provided a shred of hard evidence that the company has done anything wrong, raising the question of whether this is glorified protectionism hiding behind the banner of national security," said Zanger, also president of the Austrian Chinese Business Association, in the opening speech of an event entitled "Huawei -- Inside &Outside."
The United States has been urging its allies to exclude Huawei from their 5G development, claiming the company's technology would compromise national and user security. Huawei executives have, on various occasions, refuted the U.S.-orchestrated allegations, citing the company's excellent cyber security record and willingness to accept supervision and suggestions of foreign customers and governments. Until now, no evidence has been raised to support the allegations.
On Wednesday, Ciaran Martin, CEO of Britain's National Cyber Security Center and one of the country's most senior intelligence chiefs, said Britain is able to manage the security risks of using the Chinese company's telecoms equipment to build its next-generation 5G wireless networks. He added there was no evidence of malevolence by Huawei.
As Britain is a member of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance which also include Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States, its decision about Huawei is likely to affect the way other countries treat the Chinese company.
According to German media reports, the German cabinet held a meeting last weekend to review a report on Huawei by its own security services. The report said that the services had failed to find any evidence of spying.
Earlier this month, German Chancellor Angela Merkel took a more moderate line on the issue. She refused to say that Germany would ban Huawei but noted that the company must provide assurances on data security.
"We have never been asked by any government or any authority anywhere in the world ... to do anything that would compromise or jeopardize ... the security of customer networks," said Joe Kelly, Huawei's vice president of corporate communications, at the Thursday event. "If we ever are asked to do so, we will refuse."
As most European carriers already use Huawei for a significant percentage of their existing 4G equipment, upgrading those networks with new gear from rivals would result in more operational challenges and costs, analysts said.
Meanwhile, figures released by market analyst firm Canalys earlier suggested Huawei took up 23.6 percent of the overall European smartphone market with 13.3 million shipments in the last quarter of 2018.