China’s Huawei Technologies , hobbled by allegations in the West that it is engaged in espionage, received a shot in the arm from Malaysia on Thursday as telecoms giant Maxis signed a deal to buy 5G equipment from the Shenzhen-based company. The agreement follows repeated assertions by local officials, including Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad , that the government would not blindly follow the United States and its key allies such as Australia , Canada and New Zealand in shunning Huawei’s products. Mahathir, who presided over the signing ceremony between the two companies, said in a statement that collaboration between local and foreign vendors was vital for his country’s technology ecosystem. “I am pleased to see Maxis and Huawei taking advantage of this environment and supporting the growth of Malaysia’s digital economy,” the 94-year-old leader said. “There is no doubt that 5G will be a key driver to connecting everyone in Malaysia and transforming key industries such as manufacturing, agriculture and health care so that Malaysia can remain globally competitive.” The deal was widely expected ahead of the government’s roll-out this month of a nationwide demonstration of 5G cellular technology that experts say will boost download speeds by 100 times compared to current 4G standards, with little “latency”, or lag time. The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, the country’s telecoms regulator, is expected to soon release an interim report on how the technology will be implemented across the country. A commercial roll-out is expected in 2021 or 2022. Malaysia’s Mahathir backs Huawei, snubbing US blacklist of Chinese telecoms giant One of the key decisions regulators around the world have to make is whether to upgrade existing 4G infrastructure to cater to 5G, or build “stand-alone” networks for the new technology. The arrival of 5G is seen as vital for next-generation technologies such as driverless cars and remote surgeries. Before the pact signed on Thursday, Huawei already had provisional 5G agreements with Maxis, one of Malaysia’s biggest telecoms firms, as well as Telekom Malaysia and Celcom, two other major Malaysian service providers. Maxis said in a statement that the new agreement would allow it access to insights, standards, products and solutions that would make 5G easier to adopt, operate and introduce. Chairman Arshad Raja Tun Uda said the deal would enable Huawei to supply 4G and 5G radio equipment and services to the firm. “Leveraging on Maxis’ existing investments and footprint, it will be able to facilitate a faster roll-out of 5G services when the spectrum is available,” he said. The pact follows Mahathir’s forceful defence of Huawei in May as it came under fire from Washington and its allies for allegedly having links with the Chinese military and adding “back doors” into network equipment to spy on Beijing’s strategic rivals. Huawei has flatly rejected these claims. “The US government should not expect Malaysia to just follow suit because the Trump administration is taking action,” Mahathir said at a conference in Japan . Mahathir is not bowing to China on Huawei. He’s standing up to US bully: Malaysian minister Syed Saddiq His son Mukhriz Mahathir , the chief minister of the state of Kedah, said in an interview last month that his father’s comments in defence of the beleaguered Chinese tech giant were one reason mainland investors were now viewing Malaysia more favourably. “After that we got people calling us up, [asking]: ‘What do you need in Malaysia? In which areas do you need investment?’ Suddenly there was a spike in interest. So we tried to milk that as much as we could,” Mukhriz said. Malaysian telecoms executives say they use multiple vendors as a way to hedge against overreliance on Huawei. The Chinese firm’s main competitor is Sweden’s Ericsson. Other players that supply 5G equipment include Finland’s Nokia and the Chinese firm ZTE .