BCE CEO aims to allay concerns over Huawei impact on spending, 5G growth
The president and chief executive officer of BCE Inc. (BCE.TO) downplayed concerns around the potential fallout if Huawei Technologies Ltd. is banned outright in Canada.
“I don’t really worry about that,” George Cope told BNN Bloomberg’s Amanda Lang in an interview Friday. “That’s not really a conversation that’s going on at all.”
“We’re not in our core network with this particular technology – there’s never been an issue,” Cope added. “And if you look even globally, no one’s really talking about taking out technology and putting in older technology. It’s not really a conversation that’s going on.”
Analysts have been trying to assess the risk to Canada's telecommunications companies if Ottawa decides to place an outright ban on Huawei equipment in Canada amid mounting security concerns.
CIBC recently estimated a ban on Huawei equipment could result in a $1-billion "remove and replace" bill for BCE and Telus Corp. However, the analysts said that based on commentary from the government and companies themselves, a ban forcing telcos to rip out existing equipment is unlikely.
The federal government is currently conducting a security review on whether to permit the continued use of Huawei equipment for 5G. Cope refused to weigh in on whether the Chinese telecom giant poses a security threat to Canada.
“I’m going to put that in the hands of people who do that for a living,” Cope said. “Our job is to select vendors that meet all the qualifications that the Canadian government wants us to meet – and that’s what we’ll do.”
As BCE remains focused on 5G buildout, Cope also noted the importance of the upcoming spectrum auctions that the government is holding in 2019 and 2021.
“The [3,500 MHz band] spectrum, which is not this year, I believe it’s in next year’s agenda, you have to really have that spectrum for 5G,” Cope said.
“I think the 3.5 auction certainly will be, in our view, one of the most strategic spectrum auctions we’ve seen in the country in a number of years.”
BNN Bloomberg is a division of Bell Media, which is owned by BCE.