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Russia will continue to co-operate with Huawei on 5G, says foreign minister

Huawei has already signed deals with Russian telecom companies, banks, and has invested tens of millions of dollars into data storage in the country.

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Russia is interested in working together with China and Huawei to develop and implement a 5G network, the country’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said on August 23 in a Q&A session during the “Territory of Meanings” educational youth forum.

Lavrov highlighted that Russia has no intention to “follow the example” of the US’ leadership, who he said  “simply demand not to cooperate on 5G with China and, in particular, with Huawei,” Sputnik reported.

The show of support for Huawei marks a win for the company, which has been subjected to trading restrictions in an increasing number of countries, including Australia, New Zealand, and the US. Governments in many Western nations say Chinese intelligence agencies could exploit potential “back doors” in the company’s technology to spy on users, claims that Huawei and the Chinese government categorically deny.

Last year, Russia welcomed Huawei to bolster the country’s 5G infrastructure and development. In June 2019, it signed a deal with Russian telecom company MTS to develop a 5G network in the country over the next year. Since then, the company has reportedly spent tens of millions of dollars to rent 500 rack spaces in several Moscow data centers. This year in March, Huawei announced a partnership with Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, to launch a cloud platform.

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According to Alexander Gabuev, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center, “if Huawei succeeds in establishing control over Russia’s 5G buildout, that will strengthen the Chinese company’s position in the battle for other emerging markets.”

Russia started its 5G experiment in 2018 when the Russian cellular operators VimpelCom, MTS, MegaFon, and Tele2 came to a preliminary arrangement on the joint development of cellular networks of 5G.

However, the Russian government acknowledges that the country is unable to produce quality 5G hardware on its own, as it will require significant investment in telecommunication infrastructure. Therefore, Russia needs to cooperate with either Huawei or Western companies for 5G development.

As the relationships between Russia and the West worsen, the country has reduced its reliance on American and European technologies and investment, which presents Huawei with an opportunity to expand in the market.