The U.S. security agencies are currently pressing England and Germany to cut off Huawei, which everyone in the industry believes would be a very expensive move.  BT is smart enough not to take on MI5 and GCHQ directly, but would have to spend many billions more if it lost Huawei and ZTE as suppliers. Update 11/28 New Zealand, one of the Five Eyes working together since World War II, has now cut Huawei out of the 5G plans.

"There is only one true 5G supplier right now and that is Huawei -- the others need to catch up," says BT Chief Architect Neil McRae. That comment makes it easy to draw the inference that cutting off Huawei would significantly slow down England's 5G deployment. Even if BT says nothing, others can and probably will assert that it would be a mistake for England to boycott the Chinese.

Alternately, McRae could just be responding to some of Huawei's important advances in 5G. Its US$15 billion research budget has provided Huawei the broadest product line in telecom. Huawei products have certainly earned respect.

I haven't seen enough evidence to say Huawei is ahead. An analyst I respect, Caroline Gabriel, sees Ericsson still more than holding its own. I've reported Samsung was years ahead of others developing mmWave. With fewer than 10,000 lines in the field, no judgment is obvious.

Most of the industry - except Nokia - sees Huawei as a crucial competitor. A leading U.S. telecom engineer writes. "It is amazing to see things like this done to China which the USA would consider outrageous if it were done to us. Maybe there is a good reason to be concerned about certain Chinese companies, but actions like and what was done to ZTE could ultimately hurt the USA." (He is not authorized by his company to speak to reporters on the record.) 

I would go farther. Massive MIMO, the most important way to add capacity in 4G and 5G networks, has been deploying since 2016 to Softbank in Japan. Results vary with terrain; Softbank reported in 2016 an "up to 10X improvement" and another telco confirms an average of at least 3X. No American telco has announced a deployment of Massive MIMO to date, although several have plans. Neither Nokia nor Ericsson, the primary U.S. suppliers, have any official deployments. Massive MIMO was invented by Tom Marzetta at Bell Labs, but the western vendors are 12-24 months behind the Chinese in this important product.

My opinion is clear. SCMP printed this letter from me:

Thank you for your article, “China’s long march for the soul of the nation’s digital future” (May 26). It offers important information about China’s effort in processor chips.

In my field, telecommunications, China has already become a leader. Recently, both Huawei and Qualcomm released chips for mobile phones supporting a download speed of two gigabits per second. They demonstrated the same quality of engineering. Massive MIMO, a key part of 5G, was invented in New Jersey but ZTE and Huawei were the first to market it. They were more than a year ahead of the West.

This should surprise no one. For a decade, whenever I have visited electronic engineers at places like Stanford University, many of those I have met are from China. I recently reported on research at China’s Tsinghua and Southeast universities.

Some in Washington have the false belief that other countries cannot advance without American technology. That leads them to make very bad decisions. I learn from China and I know my Chinese friends learn from the best in America. Dave Burstein, New York