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Telecoms in Finland cautious about future with Huawei

An expert says Huawei's troubles could still be ironed out, but one operator says it likely won't sell the firm's new phones.

Mies kävelee Huawei logon ohi
At least one mobile operator in Finland says it doesn't plan on selling new Huawei mobile devices. Image: AOP

Mobile phone retailers around the world -- including in Finland -- are unsure about their relationship with Chinese network and smartphone firm Huawei following news of Google suspending its relations with the company.

Google has said it would follow orders from US President Donald Trump to stop supplying Huawei with its operating system Android.

For some time now, US officials have claimed that Huawei products - including its devices and 5G networking gear - could be so-called Trojan Horses for Chinese intelligence agencies.

Huawei is widely thought to be owned or controlled by the Chinese state and the Trump administration has said it considers the company to be a "risk to national security," and has encouraged other nations to blacklist the firm.

Going forward, this will likely mean that the Chinese company's new phones could still feature open source versions of the OS, but would lack the ability to use popular Google-branded apps like YouTube and the Chrome web browser.

Some Finnish telecoms companies were cautious about the possible future of Huawei, while another, like mobile networks firm DNA have said it is unlikely it will sell new handsets released by the Chinese company going forward.

In the meantime, however, DNA's CEO Sami Aavikko said the firm will continue to sell Huawei phones that are already on store shelves.

Story continues after photo.

Sami Aavikko
DNA CEO Sami Aavikko. Image: Mikko Ahmajärvi / Yle

"We'll continue selling the old models since the company has promised to continue providing security updates for the anticipated lifetimes of the phones. The situation regarding updates for the Android operating system is still uncertain," Aavikko said.

Finnish telecoms provider Elisa also sells Huawei handsets, but reported via email that the company has not decided whether it will sell new models in the future.

Mobile operator Telia declined to comment on what it plans to do with Huawei products on its store shelves, but did update its customers, according to the company's communications director Camilla Ekholm.

"We understand that people are uncertain, because it is difficult to say what impact this situation will have on consumers. That is why we have encouraged our sales staff to inform [customers] about Huawei's unsure situation," Ekholm said.

Current owners "shouldn't worry"

Journalist at Swedish tech site Sweclockers, Andreas Eklöv, said people who own Huawei smartphones will still be able to use Google apps like Gmail, Docs and Hangouts.

"The phones will continue to function like they normally do. The big difference is that Huawei cannot guarantee its customers that their handsets will receive OS updates, or when they will get them," Eklöv explained.

"It's not unsafe for people to continue using Huawei phones that they've already bought. Outside the US, consumers will still receive security updates from Huawei and Google," he said.

As long as Google's restrictions are in effect, Eklöv said that Huawei will be forced to manually fetch updates from Android's Open Source Project and distribute them to Huawei smartphones themselves, rather than automatically receive official updates directly from Google.

This situation, Eklöv explained, will likely mean Huawei handsets will not be updated as quickly as other Android-based phones on the market.

Eklöv said people wondering whether to buy a Huawei handset should probably wait.

"If there's no rush, it would be a good idea to wait to see what happens with the embargo. The situation could still be resolved by the autumn and then new Huawei phones would receive new versions of Android. But before we know how long the embargo will last, I would not recommend people to buy Huawei phones because we don't know how long they will receive updates," Eklöv said.

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