German Government Warns Telcos Over China Risk


Networking parts from China may face ban if ‘serious security risk’ found, regardless of potential cost, German interior minister warns

Germany’s government has signalled that telecoms firms in the country must end their dependence on Chinese equipment providers such as Huawei and ZTE, regardless of cost, in the face of national security risks.

“The risks have been known for a long time. Our security authorities have repeatedly warned against one-sided dependencies,” said interior minister Nancy Faeser in an interview with newspaper Handelsblatt published on Friday.

“I do think that the providers had enough time to adapt to this,” she added.

Faeser said security implications would be paramount, even in the face of the potentially high costs of making changes.

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‘Serious security risk’

“We will prohibit components if they pose a serious security risk,” she said. “The network operators will have to act and dismantle the components.”

She added that the government was still assessing the risks.

Telecoms providers in Germany, Europe’s largest economy, are heavily reliant on parts from China, which is Germany’s biggest trading partner.

The country has long stopped short of imposing an outright ban on Chinese telecoms equipment providers, in the face of intense pressure from the US.

High cost

Operators such as Deutsche Telekom fear such a move would make existing networks far more expensive to maintain and upgrade.

Instead the government in 2019 said it would introduce mandatory certification for components deemed to be critical IT infrastructure, without excluding parts from any specific country or vendor.

In September 2020 the German government said it was introducing stricter oversight of Huawei as a “high-risk vendor”, but again stopped short of an outright ban.

In March of this year, however, the government began reviewing all components with security implications that were supplied by Huawei and ZTE, triggered in party by concerns about an obscure piece of Huawei technology that is supposed to control power consumption.