Germany To Toughen Scrutiny Of Huawei

Germany, Brandenburg Gate © S.Borisov Shutterstock 2012

Berlin is aiming for tougher oversight of Huawei, but stops short of an outright ban, as part of strategy to handle ‘high risk vendors’

Huawei Technologies could reportedly be facing tougher oversight from the German government, amid the ongoing debate of dealing with ‘high risk vendors’.

Reuters reported that Berlin’s proposed tougher oversight of telecoms network vendors does stop short of an outright ban on 5G equipment from the Chinese tech giant.

In February it was reported that German lawmakers had backed a position not to ban Huawei. A strategy paper by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative party at the time apparently backed a no ban position.

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Huawei in Germany

But on Wednesday it is being reported that some coalition and government sources had reached an agreement in principle to “extend scrutiny of a vendor’s governance and technology to Radio Access Networks (RAN) powering next-generation 5G services, in addition to the more sensitive core.”

But Reuters said that not all government departments were on board with this concept, with the Economy Ministry saying talks on the proposed regulatory regime “are continuing and have not been completed”.

But it seems that the German government could be close to agreeing a position on Huawei, judging by some the reports coming out from local media.

Reuters noted that the Handelsblatt daily reported after two years of wrangling, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition had agreed on a formula for how to handle so-called high-risk vendors in a proposed IT security law.

But Reuters also quoted a senior US official as urging the German government to support its NATO allies by removing Chinese technology from its next-generation networks.

“We are seeing things moving in the right direction in Germany … There is really no future with Huawei,” Keith Krach, the US undersecretary of state for economic affairs who has visited Berlin and Brussels in recent days, was quoted as saying.

Huawei has always denied it poses a security risk.

The firm reportedly said it could not comment on a measure that was still being drafted, but highlighted its 30-year track record of delivering safe networks and transparent cooperation with the German authorities.

“We cannot identify any comprehensible reasons for restricting our market access,” Huawei’s German spokesman reportedly said.

Red tape

In July this year, the British government officially ordered British mobile operators to remove all Huawei equipment from UK 5G networks within seven years.

And according to Reuters, France will informally exclude the Chinese vendor.

Germany meanwhile will allegedly strangle it in red tape. “The final outcome is the same,” one senior security official told Reuters.

German scrutiny of telecom vendors would include up-front and ongoing assessments by Germany’s cybersecurity watchdog and intelligence services, subject to a judgement from key government departments on whether a vendor is trustworthy, some sources said.

Germany’s three mobile network operators – Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Telefonica Deutschland – all use Huawei equipment and have argued that replacing it would be costly.

DT’s 5G network (built mostly with Huawei equipment), already reaches 50 percent of the German population and by the time the German IT Security law is likely to take effect, it is expected to largely be complete, said Reuters.

Earlier this week Nokia revealed that it will supply 5G radio equipment to BT, the owner of the UK’s largest mobile operator EE.