Belgian telcos leave Huawei out in the cold for 5G rollouts

Orange and Proximus have both chosen to use Nokia and Ericsson equipment for their respective 5G rollouts in Belgium.

The move will see both Orange and Proximus drop Huawei gear, which had previously been used as part of the telcos’ 4G networks.

The two telcos will use Nokia equipment to roll out 5G and progressively renew existing 2G/3G/4G mobile radio networks. Specifically, Nokia will build one radio access network (RAN) and one 5G network each for the telcos. 

Meanwhile, Ericsson will be responsible for building out the cores of the telcos’ 5G networks.

“The decision to collaborate with Ericsson is an important step in the execution of our network strategy. Proximus is committed to building the best gigabit network for Belgium, and the renewal of our mobile network equipment is a key element in this strategy for the coming years,” Proximus network business chief Geert Standaert said.

Telenet, the third major Belgian telco, is the last remaining telco that has yet to make a decision on which supplier it will use to build its 5G networks. 

Orange and Proximus’ decisions to not select Huawei gear continues the trend of the Chinese equipment provider being blocked out from 5G builds.

Last month, BT, the UK’s largest telco, picked Nokia to build more of its 5G networks across the country as part of plans to move away from its partnership with the Chinese telecommunications giant.

In Australia, Huawei has been banned from supplying 5G equipment for any 5G rollouts.

Meanwhile, all of Canada’s major telcos have gone elsewhere for their 5G rollouts and, although not officially banned, Huawei has not made any inroads in New Zealand after GCSB prevented Spark from using Huawei kit in November 2018.

Shortly after the announcement that Nokia received the nod in Belgium, the Swedish network giant

Pandemic spurs Africa’s mobile telcos to ramp up banking bid

JOHANNESBURG/ABIDJAN (Reuters) – When COVID-19 hit Ivory Coast, Bonaventure Kra, who works at an import-export business, began to worry. Handling hard cash all day was a risk. Queuing in crowded bank branches exposed him to infection.

A woman prepares to perform a financial transaction on her mobile phone at a bank of the French mobile operator Orange in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, September 18, 2020. REUTERS/Macline Hien

Then, in the midst of the pandemic, French telecommunications giant Orange ORAN.PA launched an entirely digital bank – its first full banking venture in Africa.

“Going back to cash would be like travelling back in time,” Kra said in the country’s commercial capital, Abidjan. “I intend to use it permanently.”

Africa’s mobile phone operators are ramping up plans to bring banking to millions of Africans, in some cases for the first time, after the coronavirus crisis caused a surge in use of digital financial services.

Orange, MTN MTNJ.J, Telkom TKGJ.J and Vodacom VODJ.J are lowering fees, rolling out new lending services ahead of schedule, and expanding mobile payment networks with the aim of finally denting the so-far unshakeable dominance of cash.

“It’s one of those industries that we consider to be ripe for disruption,” Sibusiso Ngwenya, financial services managing executive at South Africa’s Telkom, told Reuters.

With their revenue under threat as governments cap data prices and customers abandon voice phone services for free messaging apps, telcos have sought to leverage their reach into remote villages and urban shanty towns in a pivot to banking.

The global health crisis has been an unexpected catalyst, with some African governments releasing COVID-19 stimulus grants via mobile money platforms and central banks easing regulations, including limits on mobile transactions.

Orange added over five million new customers for its mobile money services in April and May alone.