Chinese telecom giant Huawei said Thursday that it would begin manufacturing radio equipment for next-generation 5G networks in France, its first such facility outside of China. Huawei, which has become caught up in a bruising trade war between Beijing and Washington, has been attentively courting Europe as it tries to offset lost business in the US.
Its planned 200-million-euro ($218-million) French facility will employ 500 people and produce equipment for the European market, Huawei chairman Liang Hua told a press conference in Paris.
"The site will begin manufacturing radio equipment and then branch out to other products in future, depending on the needs of the European market," Liang said. He did not say where the factory, which will produce around one billion euros worth of equipment a year, would be located nor when it would begin production.
Liang said the company was in discussions with the French government and local authorities about the project. 5G, or fifth generation, networks offer vastly higher cellular communication speeds compared with the 4G networks currently used widely, which could unlock a variety of new applications.
The US has been pressuring European allies to exclude Huawei from their 5G networks, but France and Britain have so far refused to be swayed. French authorities said earlier this month they would not discriminate against the company but would nonetheless prioritise European operators, such as Nokia or Ericsson.
The US contends that Huawei is too close to the Chinese government and that its equipment could be used as a tool for spying - a contention the company has denied. A US court last week dismissed a challenge by Huawei to a ban on the purchase of its products by US federal agencies.