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Vodafone Australia CEO Inaki Berroeta has slammed the Australian government for banning Chinese telecommunications vendor Huawei from participating in the forthcoming nationwide rollout of 5G and has said that the operator should be entitled to compensation.

The Vodafone CEO said that the government failed to properly consult with mobile operators already using Huawei’s equipment in their networks. He also believes that prohibiting Huawei from the national 5G program gives Optus and Telus a competitive advantage.

Australia took the decision to ban Huawei in August after pressure from US lobbyists and domestic intelligence agencies who claimed the Chinese ICT leader was a threat to national security. However, there are many that have voiced their opposition to the deal, claiming that removing Huawei from the 5G buildout would result in lessened competition and higher costs for both operators and consumers.

The Vodafone CEO said, "Australia is the first country where an incumbent supplier has been banned. It has never happened anywhere else. That decision was made very quickly without really much time for us to understand how it would be implemented.”

A spokesman for the Department of Home Affairs said the government recognizes that 5G networks present incredible opportunities for economy-wide transformation, but cautioned that the new technology introduces new risks, and the primary aim of the Australian government is to protect its citizens.

On Monday, Australian telecommunications company Optus chief executive Allen Lew told this masthead he hadn't heard a "squeak" from Vodafone about its 5G plan.

Optus also has Huawei in its established mobile networks and was required to "adjust" its plans on the back of the ban. The telco has started rolling out 5G fixed wireless sites and is expected to launch 5G mobile in the second half of 2019. Telstra has partnered with Ericsson.

"What would have happened if this decision would've impacted Telstra? If you look at the national broadband network, Telstra gets compensated left and right. Their whole legal department would be in Canberra altogether and it would've been something a lot more negotiated," Berroeta said.

"Everything that happens in this market that affects Telstra involves meetings between Telstra and government. When it doesn't affect Telstra those things don't happen. I think this is something that should raise the attention of people because it is a highly uncompetitive practice."

Berroeta said there were a few companies making too much noise about 5G.

"Some people that are talking about bringing 5G devices today, I don't really understand the logic. The 5G devices I see so far are not something that will be sellable in Australia," he said, expecting it would be a couple of years before compatible phones would be commonplace.


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