Germany To Consult With Telcos On Huawei Ban

German government seeks response to US pressure to ban Chinese firms from 5G networks as first spectum auctions loom

The German government is planning to consult with telecoms operators and network vendors on how to handle the national security implications of procurement for next-generation 5G mobile networks, according to a report.

Germany’s stance on whether to exclude Chinese telecoms equipment firms such as market leader Huawei is closely watched ahead of the country’s pioneering 5G spectrum auctions, expected to begin in late March.

German ministers discussed network security issues last week amidst growing pressure by the US government to ban Huawei and other Chinese firms.

The US is currently involved in an increasingly damaging trade dispute with China.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo. Image credit: US government

5G quandary

A decision on how to ensure 5G networks are secure is unlikely in the next two weeks, with issues of cost, feasibility and practical security measures remaining to be hammered out, Reuters reported, citing an unnamed source.

The German press had previously reported that officials had already determined on a common aproach, but Reuters’ source disputed that.

Following last week’s meeting of Cabinet members of Angela Merkel’s administration, reports indicated that the government had ruled out singling out Huawei or any other firm for exclusion from bidding on 5G contracts.

Instead the government said it wanted to determine strict security standards to which all vendors would be required to adhere.

“I don’t think this is about ruling out or not ruling out individual service providers,” said economy minister Peter Altmaier in public comments at the time.

The government said it was planning to formulate a list of security criteria for firms, and that this would be completed in the next couple of weeks.

German telecoms companies have warned additional costs would arise if Germany were to ban  Huawei from its 5G networks, as Australia and New Zealand have done.

Deutsche Telekom said such a move could bring the risk of Europe falling behind the US and China on 5G, according to an internal briefing paper reported in the press.

US pressure

On Monday US secretary of state Mike Pompeo gave one of the US’ strongest public statements to date against the use of Huawei equipment in Europe, saying the deployment of Huawei equipment could make it “difficult” for the US to maintain an alliance with a given country.

“It… makes it more difficult for America to be present,” Pompeo told reporters at the US embassy in Budapest, referring to the use of Huawei equipment, Reuters reported. “If that equipment is co-located where we have important American systems, it makes it more difficult for us to partner alongside them.”

He said he had discussed “the dangers of allowing China to gain a bridgehead in Hungary” in talks with Hungary’s foreign minister.

“We want to make sure we identify (to) them the opportunities and the risks of using that equipment,” he said.

The US maintains that network equipment from Chinese firms could be used for state espionage purposes.

The Chinese foreign ministry called Pompeo’s remarks “unfair and immoral”.

Huawei has denied it has connections with China’s government or poses a national security threat.