SaskTel 5G Network ‘Unlikely’ to Use Huawei, Will Follow Telus and Bell: Minister

SaskTel’s current 4G LTE wireless network uses Huawei gear, but it’s “unlikely” this will continue for the crown corporation’s upcoming 5G network.

Speaking to the Regina Leader-Post, Saskatchewan Minister Don Morgan, who oversees SaskTel, told the publication on Tuesday the 5G networks will most likely use European hardware, following in the footsteps of Bell and Telus, due to roaming agreements in place.

“We’re going to follow suit with what Bell and Telus are doing for our 5G. We will look at other vendors, specifically Nokia and Ericsson,” said Morgan, noting a final decision has not been made yet, but would come “in the next while.”

The minister added, “it would be unlikely that we would have Huawei,” noting the province does not have a standalone foreign policy. Morgan also blasted the federal government for not supporting wireless carriers with respect to Huawei, noting a decision should have been made a year ago.

“We’ve had little or no support from the federal government as far as them saying it is or is not an issue, but we know that there’s a growing amount of public concern around the security issues,” said Morgan.

With SaskTel moving towards European 5G hardware, it does come with increased costs and more training. He also said the transition to new suppliers could result in dropped calls when existing customers leave area covered by Huawei 4G towers.

Morgan told the Leader-Post 5G networks would first debut in Regina and Saskatoon, followed by Moose Jaw and Prince Albert. He said rural areas would unlikely have 5G because of range issues.

Earlier this month, the minister had already signalled SaskTel was looking beyond Huawei for 5G due to not just security issues, but also when it comes to trade. He told Battlefords Now ,“The trading relationship has become increasingly difficult. They’re putting up major roadblocks to the purchase of our products and now there are enormous concerns over security with 5G”.

As for when SaskTel will launch its 5G network? The minister said COVID-19 is impacting the 5G timeline for 2020, but added 2021 wouldn’t be unrealistic.