November 17, 2019 / 9:23 PM / a month ago

UPDATE 2-Spark New Zealand keeps Huawei on preferred suppliers list, but leads 5G rollout with Nokia

* Spark to kick off 5G rollout with Nokia

* Samsung, Huawei to be part of preferred suppliers list

* Spark has not yet submitted applications for use of Huawei or Samsung (Adds Spark comment, background)

Nov 18 (Reuters) - Spark New Zealand Ltd said on Monday it abandoned plans to rely on China’s Huawei exclusively for the rollout of 5G services but would keep it as part of a three-company preferred list of equipment suppliers.

The telecom and digital services provider said it would kick off its 5G rollout with Nokia - for which it has New Zealand government approval - as part of its staged-approach strategy.

Spark said Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Huawei completed its three-company preferred list of suppliers. It has not yet submitted applications, however, for the use of Huawei or Samsung equipment.

The use of Huawei Technologies Co Ltd equipment ran into a major roadblock in November 2018 when New Zealand’s intelligence agency rejected Spark’s proposal to use Huawei equipment, citing national security risks.

The Chinese company has been under scrutiny over allegations and concerns that China could use Huawei’s equipment for espionage, a charge that Huawei has repeatedly denied.

“What we haven’t yet done, is put another application for Huawei,” Spark said.

“The point at which we want to start using their equipment as part of this multi-vendor approach, we will put in another application,” the company said in an email.

Australia also banned the Chinese telecom giant from supplying 5G equipment to the country in 2018, following a growing trend of Western countries becoming increasingly wary about the rising influence of Chinese companies.

Auckland-based Spark said wireless 5G broadband would be introduced in five areas in New Zealand’s South Island before Christmas, and in major centres from mid-2020.

Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan and Shriya Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru; Editing by Edmund Blair and Peter Cooney

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