Years of dithering by German officials may soon end, amid report the country is preparing to ban Huawei, ZTE from 5G networks
The German government looks set to end years of national security indecision over two big name Chinese technology firms.
Reuters noted that German newspaper Zeit Online reported on Monday that the German government is planning on forbidding local telecoms operators from using certain components from Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE in their 5G networks.
High risk vendors?
Germany’s three mobile network operators – Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Telefonica Deutschland – all currently use Huawei equipment and have previously argued that replacing it would be a costly exercise.
In 2019 the then Merkel government said it wished to toughen up technical certification and scrutiny of telecoms equipment suppliers, but without excluding any specific country or vendor.
Germany’s federal network regulator had already unveiled rules for the build-out of 5G mobile networks in that country, and importantly opted not to ban Huawei from the deployment of German 5G networks.
But in September 2020 Berlin said it was aiming for tougher oversight of Huawei, but again stopped short of an outright ban, as part of strategy to handle ‘high risk vendors’.
That decision came after German lawmakers in February 2020 had backed a position not to ban Huawei.
Now according to the Zeit Online report, the German government is considering certain piece of equipment in its 5G networks, supplied by Huawei and ZTE.
The article, citing government sources, suggested that the German ban could include components already built into the networks, requiring operators to remove and replace them.
The German government, which is now in the midst of a broader re-evaluation of its relationship with top trade partner China, did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
A source, however, confirmed the report to Reuters.
Huawei, ZTE and indeed the Chinese government have always rejected any national security claims.
Reuters quoted a Huawei spokesperson as saying the firm did not comment on speculation about a possible ban on the use of certain components, and noted the company had a “very good security record” during its 20 years of delivering its technology to Germany and the rest of the world.
ZTE did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Reuters noted that Germany passed an IT security law in 2021 setting high hurdles for makers of telecommunications equipment for next-generation networks, but stopping short of banning Huawei and ZTE as some other countries have done.
In December a report from Strand Consult showed that Germany had actually become even more dependent on Huawei for its 5G radio access network equipment (RAN) than in its 4G network, even though operators have avoided using the firm’s technology for the core networks.
Zeit Online reportedly said the government’s cybersecurity agency and interior ministry had for months been checking if there were components in the growing 5G networks that could put German security at risk.
The survey had not officially been ended, but the result was already clear, the newspaper said, citing government sources.
The German government would ban operators from using certain controlling elements from Huawei and ZTE in 5G networks.