Senior officials in Germany are reportedly urging the German government to ban the use of Chinese equipment, like that from Huawei, in their 5G networks.

The officials want Germany to follow the lead of Australia in banning Huawei technology altogether, and are said to be planning a last-ditch drive to convince the government to consider excluding Chinese firms because of national security concerns.

It comes after the British government earlier this month wrote to telcos, warning them against using equipment makers such as Huawei when rolling out 5G networks, because of an ongoing security review of those Chinese firms.

German concern

The behind-the-scenes push in Berlin was reported by Reuters, after both Australia and the United States banned Chinese firms from supplying 5G technology.

Germany is only expected to start its 5G auctions in early 2019, well behind other nations.

The UK for example already held its 5G spectrum auctions in March this year.

The officials who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said it was unclear whether the initiative would succeed.

But the push highlights the concern felt in some parts of the German government over Chinese involvement in building Germany’s next generation mobile network.

“There is serious concern. If it were up to me we would do what the Australians are doing,” one senior German official involved in the internal 5G debate in Berlin told Reuters.

It is understood that it is officials in the German foreign and interior ministries, who have held talks with their US and Australian counterparts, that are leading efforts to get the German government to ban Chinese suppliers.

Chinese law

Security concerns centre over China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law, which mandates that Chinese “organisations and citizens shall, in accordance with the law, support, cooperate with, and collaborate in national intelligence work”.

This has led to fears that companies such as Huawei and ZTE could be forced by the Chinese government to incorporate “backdoors” into their equipment. There is also a concern that Chinese intelligence service could somehow compromise Huawei’s equipment.

A Huawei spokesman told Reuters that it rejected any suggestion that it might pose a threat to national security.

“Cyber security has always been our top priority and we have a proven track record of providing secure products and solutions for our customers in Germany and around the world,” the spokesman reportedly said.

Huawei has called Australia’s decision in August to ban it from 5G “politically motivated” and based on a “mistaken and narrow understanding” of Chinese law.

Spy chips

But fears about China and Chinese firms persist.

Last month Super Micro Computer said it would review its hardware for malicious chips, after a controversial report from Bloomberg Businessweek.

That report alleged the Chinese had installed spy chips on numerous hardware platforms (servers and others computers) from well known America tech firms including the likes of Apple, Amazon and others.

That report generated a lot of anger in tech circles, with Apple’s CEO Tim Cook demanding that Bloomberg retract the article, which it refuses to do.

And it should be noted that the US has placed restrictions on the sale of smartphones made by Huawei and other Chinese manufacturers.

In March, the US also blocked Broadcom’s planned hostile acquisition of Qualcomm, saying that the deal could only benefit 5G research plans by Chinese companies such as Huawei.

The US of course is involved in a trade dispute with China, and America recently extended an indictment against Fujian Jinhua, a manufacturer of memory chips, on charges of conspiring to steal trade secrets, an action which also included an export ban against the company.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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