SA needs co-ordinated response to Huawei dilemma: Telkom CEO

Sipho Maseko

Telkom CEO Sipho Maseko said on Monday that a co-ordinated South African response to the Donald Trump administration’s blacklisting of Huawei is needed and he hopes to work with other industry players to present a plan to President Cyril Ramaphosa about how to deal with the challenge.

Telkom is heavily exposed to Huawei. Though it has a dual-vendor strategy in its fixed-line network, where it works with both Huawei and Nokia, it’s mobile network has been built exclusively using Huawei telecommunications gear.

“We have been engaging with Huawei in a number of ways. In fact, two weeks ago I was in China to meet with the senior leadership of Huawei to understand how they are mitigating the issues,” Maseko said in a live YouTube interview with TechCentral following publication of the group’s financial results for the year ended 31 March 2019.

“Last week Friday, I met with the First Citizen to share with him the concerns I have — and it’s not just me, it’s an industry concern — and how we need to have the right response as a country,” he said. “How do we make sure we are looking to co-ordinate our efforts so we can brief the president (Ramaphosa) in the right way…?”

He said Telkom has modelled how much it will cost the company to replace its core mobile network should it come that. But, he said, the company is keen to deal with the situation as “more of a macro issue, as a country issue, and not just a Telkom issue”. He wants the industry to “lean on the president and the minister of foreign affairs to make sure South Africa, and hopefully Africa as a continent, has a co-ordinated response around some of these matters”.


On whether Telkom will continue to sell Huawei smartphones given the uncertainty over whether the Chinese company will continue to have access to Android and Google apps and services, Maseko said the operator will continue to make the devices available, but “with the right level of disclaimers”.

“This afternoon, I am meeting with Huawei again to ensure we have the right model and the right incentives and the right disclaimers built in, so that whatever happens between now and whenever there is finality on these geopolitical issues, we are not put at risk…”

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TechCentral reached out to Vodacom, MTN South Africa and Cell C for comment on how the geopolitical tensions will affect their networks and their willingness to continue selling Huawei devices to consumers. Vodacom responded saying it will “continue to review the situation as it evolves”.

“At the moment, there is no impairment to the applications or security on Huawei and Honor devices in the market,” Vodacom said. (Honor is a Huawei brand.)

“We offer customers a wide range of handsets and we will continue to make Huawei and Honor devices available if customers want them.”  — © 2019 NewsCentral Media