Ever since Malcolm Turnbull banned Huawei from 5G in August 2018 Huawei has argued that excluding us from 5G in this country would be bad for consumers – competition between 5G technology vendors is crucial to delivering the best outcomes for Australians. Sadly the 5G ban on Huawei has delivered a virtual vendor monopoly right now in the Australian 5G market with the most advanced 5G network operators, Telstra and Optus, both using Ericsson technology. The reality is that as things stand we simply don’t have a competitive 5G technology market in Australia and, as Ericsson CEO Börje Ekholm said when announcing Ericsson’s results overnight, that is not a good thing at all. “The reality is we [Ericsson] thrive in a situation where there is competition – competition drives out the best from us. We will be more innovative, provide better solutions to customers. So I welcome that we have global competition,” Mr. Ekholm said. At Huawei we could not agree more with that statement and Mr. Ekholm’s comments simply confirm what we have already said on many occasions that allowing an operator to achieve a near monopoly position as Ericsson has established in Australia is not good for anyone. After all, why should a vendor make an extra special effort to deliver the best possible technology at the best possible price for their customer if it is under no pressure to do so? It is not just on the competition aspect that we find ourselves in agreement with Mr. Ekholm, we also find ourselves in agreement with him on the critical need to deploy genuinely ubiquitous 5G coverage as soon as possible in order to really start exploring the industrial opportunities that 5G can bring. Addressing the media Mr. Ekholm said that one of Ericsson’s key learnings from its involvements in 5G deployment in China – where some 500,000 5G base stations have already been activated compared to only a couple of thousand in Australia – was that speed and ubiquity of 5G rollout is crucial. “It’s important for the rest of the world, and notably Europe, to take some impressions from the fast [5G] build out pace we’re seeing in China,” stated Ekholm. “The strategy that the Chinese operators are deploying is to build out the network because it’s a platform for innovation, and it’s a platform for driving the rest of the economy – in Europe we tend to focus more on the investments in 5G, but the reality is that the value of the applications you’re going to run on top of 5G is much higher. “The Chinese operators recognize that, and the Chinese system is recognizing that… driving more investments to build out a network infrastructure. We see almost the opposite in Europe.” Once again we find ourselves in agreement with Mr. Ekholm and it should come as not be a surprise that South Korea – the leading 5G market in the world as recognized by global telecoms researcher OMDIA – has encouraged competition between 5G technology providers knowing how it will spur innovation. Indeed, only last week the South Koreans resisted further pressure from the US to ban Huawei from 5G in the country, arguing that it was up to private network operators to make their own choices on technology providers. Sadly, the Turnbull 5G ban on Huawei cost Australia the chance to be a true world-leader in 5G and set back our deployment by at least two years and has cost us billions of dollars into the bargain by making 5G deployment much more expensive. We have already seen Telstra increase 5G prices by up to $15 per month for consumers as a consequence of those higher rollout costs and most people in Australia are still nowhere being able to access a 5G signal where they live – and that’s the most disappointing part. As Mr. Ekholm says coverage is critical in 5G so you can deliver universal access to 5G applications for industrial and agricultural applications – until businesses know they have 5G coverage they cannot invest in the next-generation applications that will drive productivity. Competition between 5G technology vendors would help to drive that 5G coverage right across Australia by lowering rollout costs and encouraging competition between operators – but the absence of Huawei from 5G means we miss out on that crucial ingredient. Jeremy Mitchell is Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at Huawei Australia.