US To Seek Tougher European 5G Security Rules At Prague Summit

The US is reportedly planning to use an international summit in Prague next month to try to convince European countries to effectively bar Chinese equipment makers from 5G networks.

The meeting, which is to include delegates from all EU countries as well as the European Commission, the US, NATO and Australia, is part of a broad confrontation between the US and China over emerging 5G technologies.

But Reuters reported the US is planning to use a “softer” approach next month’s summit, focusing issues of security rather than on China or individual manufacturers based there, such as Huawei or ZTE.

The US itself last August formally barred its government agencies from using Huawei or ZTE technologies, and Australia and New Zealand have also blocked Chinese companies from participating in 5G networks on security grounds.

Huawei ban

In recent months the US has also warned allies it may limit the sharing of intelligence information with them if Chinese equipment is used in their telecoms networks.

A study from the US Department of Defence earlier this month made it clear that the US considers Chinese networking products to pose an inherent security risk, while allies including the UK and Germany have thus far taken the position that any such risks can be managed.

At the summit, the US is planning to urge allies to consider conditions in a manufacturer’s home country, including the legal environment, how much state support companies receive and the transparency of corporate structure, according to Reuters, citing unnamed officials and official documents.

The current US strategy was expressed by a senior US cyber-security official last week, who said that if European countries are “rigorous” in applying security critera to networking equipment vendors, it will effectively mean shuttint out Chinese firms.

Robert Strayer, deputy assistant secretary for cyber, international communications and information policy at the US State Department, told Reuters last week that the US was urging allies to adopt “risk-based security frameworks”, which it believes “will lead inevitably to the banning of Huawei”.

Security rules

Germany implemented tougher security rules for all equipment vendors as it began its first 5G spectrum auctions, but has not indicated those rules would result in barring Chinese firms.

A White House national security spokesman commented that the US “welcomes engagement from partners and allies to discuss ways that we can work together ensuring that our 5G networks are reliable and secure”.

Huawei did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but has always denied its equipment poses a security risk.

The UK has publicly taken Huawei to task for “shoddy” security practices, but thus far has maintained that any security risks can be mitigated.

British network operators say shutting out Huawei would cost billions and delay the UK’s rollout of 5G by years.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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