Vodafone UK was scheduled to match EE’s 5G launch event with one of its own the next day but suddenly cancelled it.
Pretty much every other event in the telecoms world these days exists in the shadow of the rapidly escalating Huawei crisis, but that didn’t stop UK MNO EE from going ahead with its launch event today. Huawei was conspicuously absent from its initial list of 5G smartphone vendors, and parent company BT is clearly trying to distance itself from it across the board, but at least the event went ahead.
The same won’t be said about Vodafone, which had scheduled an ‘informal media briefing’ for 23 May – tomorrow. In a last-minute communication with media that had signed up to attend Vodafone UK said: “…due to the ongoing media agenda, tomorrow’s briefing with Max Taylor, Vodafone UK’s new Consumer Director has been postponed. This was an informal media briefing to provide an update on Vodafone’s 5G device plans. Vodafone will still be issuing an announcement on their 5G handset pricing tomorrow and customers will be able to purchase/ pre-order some handsets.”
As we noted earlier, the US ban on doing business with Huawei is metastasizing rapidly. It’s starting to look like companies are pre-emptively cutting ties with the Chinese vendor if there’s even the slightest risk of upsetting the US. Vodafone may well have decided it was better to call the whole thing off than risk political contagion, since it was due to announce the Huawei Mate X (5G) and an exclusive 5G home router, called the 5G Gigacube, at the event.
We presume Vodafone still intends to flick the 5G switch in the UK on 3 July as previously announced but this Huawei business has seriously taken the wind out of its PR sails. It’s very unlikely that this will be the last time we see a western Huawei partner forced to make a last-minute adjustment as this whole saga plays out.