The head of the French cybersecurity agency ANSSI said there would not be a total ban on using equipment from Huawei in the rollout of the French 5G telecoms network, but that it was pushing French telcos to avoid switching to the Chinese company.
"What I can say is that there won't be a total ban," Guillaume Poupard told Les Echos newspaper in an interview. "(But) for operators that are not currently using Huawei, we are inciting them not to go for it."
The U.S. government has urged its allies to exclude the Chinese telecoms giant from the West's next-generation communications, saying Beijing could use it for spying. Huawei has denied the charges.
Sources told Reuters in March France would not ban Huawei but would seek to keep it out of the core mobile network, which carries higher surveillance risks because it processes sensitive information such as customers' personal data.
France's decision over Huawei's equipment is crucial for two of the country's four telecoms operators, Bouygues and SFR, as about half of their current mobile network is made by the Chinese group.
"For those that are already using Huawei, we are delivering authorisations for durations that vary between three and eight years," Poupard said in the interview.
State-controlled Orange has already chosen Huawei's European rivals Nokia and Ericsson.
Poupard said that from next week, operators which have not received an explicit authorisation to use Huawei equipment for the 5G network can consider a non-response after the legal deadline as a rejection of their requests.
Poupard said the choice was made to protect French independence, and not as an act of hostility towards China.
"This is not Huawei bashing or anti-Chinese racism," Poupard said. "All we're saying is that the risk is not the same with European suppliers as with non-Europeans."
(Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Jan Harvey)