(Bloomberg) -- Ericsson AB Chief Executive Officer Borje Ekholm pushed back on notions that restrictions on Chinese competitor Huawei Technologies Co. would deprive European operators of the only vendor capable of delivering equipment for next-generation wireless networks and risk delaying 5G development on the continent.

While it’s true there’s a risk Europe could fall behind on 5G, “it is not true that this is because European service providers lack access to the right technology,” Ekholm said in a blog post on Ericsson’s website. “We are already deploying commercial 5G equipment with frontrunner customers in frontrunner markets and we will be there when the time is right for 5G in each market."

Ekholm’s comments come after European operators have warned that restrictions on Huawei, the world’s largest supplier of network equipment, would delay their plans to build out the 5G networks that promise faster download speeds, lower signal delays and massively increased capacity from current 4G networks. The equipment supplier faces bans in the U.S. and elsewhere over fears that the Chinese government could use its technology to spy on other countries.

Ericsson’s Finnish competitor Nokia Oyj has also been irked by claims that European vendors are years behind their Chinese rival. Eric Mangan, a spokesman for Nokia, stressed that the company has the ability to upgrade 4G equipment from any vendor to 5G, and that, like Ericsson, it is already building the new infrastructure for customers. That includes in the U.S. market, where Huawei is effectively shut out.

Nokia has 18 commercial 5G radio contracts, so “it is hard to argue that the technical capacity to advance 5G is not available to operators in European countries,” Mangan said in emailed comments on Sunday. “The hurdles to 5G adoption in Europe relate to the fact the 5G ecosystem is still in development, and the current lack of available licensed spectrum compared to other regions.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Niclas Rolander in Stockholm at nrolander@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebecca Penty at rpenty@bloomberg.net, Kevin Miller, Linus Chua

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