A US delegation reportedly visited European governments and telcos this month to urge them to lock out Chinese companies ahead of critical 5G auctions next year
The US is putting increased pressure on its political allies, including the UK, Germany and Japan, to exclude China’s Huawei from their next-generation mobile networks, ahead of 5G auctions set to begin early next year, according to several reports.
A US delegation visited Europe earlier this month to express the country’s concerns to government officials and telecommunications companies, according to reports by The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal and other news outlets.
British officials are likely to step up pressure on Huawei, but denied this was in response to US concerns, the FT said.
The US Department of Commerce did not confirm or deny the reports, but said it would remain vigilant against any threat to US national security.
Huawei is the world’s largest supplier of telecommunications equipment, and is one of the main providers of equipment for the UK’s telecoms networks.
Hawks in the US have long flagged Huawei and ZTE as a national security threat, and the companies are blocked from providing equipment to the government and its contractors there.
Huawei, the world’s second-largest smartphone maker, is also effectively barred from selling its handsets in the US.
US authorities have pointed to China’s National Intelligence Law, which they say could force Chinese companies to facilitate spying efforts in other countries.
But the country has also made it clear that it considers Huawei’s advancement in the 5G market, in which it competes with US companies such as Qualcomm, to pose a national security threat.
The US is currently involved in an escalating trade war with China that has affected a growing range of high-tech products.
It was reported earlier this month that German officials were pushing for a ban on Huawei similar to that in Australia, while UK officials wrote to telcos warning them about the security risks of using equipment from China.
Reports said that those moves followed visits by US delegations, which have also led Japan to consider a ban on Huawei equipment.
The message delivered by the delegation was that Germany and the UK, as key US allies, must safeguard the security of their telecoms networks and supply chains, unnamed officials told the FT.
Huawei has carried out extensive 5G tests in both countries and is set to open an IT security lab in Germany to enable source code reviews, part of its efforts to win the trust of officials ahead of 5G spectrum auctions next year.
A German official told the FT that US influence has “really intensified recently”.
A ban remains unlikely in the UK, due to the advanced stage of Huawei’s involvement in 5G development in the country, according to officials.
A former intelligence official said that the aim is rather to slow down Huawei “to allow the rest of the market to catch up”, the FT said.
The paper cited Raffaello Pantucci, director of international studies at UK think tank RUSI, as saying that the US is putting pressure on China in a “whole series of areas” and is pushing for “unity among its allies on China policy”.