Germany will not exclude Huawei from 5G race

Huawei 5G
A 5G sign is pictured at Huawei's booth at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Shanghai, China, June 28, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song/Files

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany has finalised rules for the build-out of 5G mobile networks that, in a snub to the United States, will not exclude China’s Huawei Technologies.

Government officials confirmed that Germany’s so-called security catalogue foresaw an evaluation of technical and other criteria, but that no single vendor would be barred in order to create a level playing field for equipment vendors.

“We are not taking a pre-emptive decision to ban any actor, or any company,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told a news conference in Berlin on Monday.

The United States has piled pressure on its allies to shut out Huawei, the leading telecoms equipment vendor with a global market share of 28%, saying its gear contained ‘back doors’ that would enable China to spy on other countries.

German operators are all customers of Huawei and have warned that banning the Chinese vendor would add years of delays and billions of dollars in costs to launching 5G networks.

The Shenzhen-based company has denied the allegations by Washington, which imposed export controls on Huawei in May, hobbling its smartphone business and raising questions over whether the Chinese company can maintain its market lead.

US officials have also argued that, under China’s national intelligence law, all citizens and companies are required to collaborate in espionage efforts.

GROUND RULES CONFIRMED

Officials said Germany’s security catalogue was due to be published shortly, confirming an earlier decision to keep a level playing field for suppliers to next-generation networks that will power ultra-fast mobile broadband services or run ‘smart’ factories, offices and cities.

With billions of devices, sensors and cameras expected to be hooked up, 5G networks will be far more ubiquitous than their predecessors. At the same time, the fact that 5G networks rely more on software that can be easily updated makes it harder to keep track of cyber threats.

The German rules come after the European Union last week warned of the risk of increased cyber attacks on 5G networks by state-backed actors. A report compiled by member states stopped short, however, of singling out China as a threat.

Network operators Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Telefonica Deutschland would be required to identify and apply enhanced security standards to critical network elements, the Handelsblatt daily reported earlier, citing the draft rulebook.

More broadly, vendors should be certified as trustworthy, giving customers legal recourse to exclude them and seek damages if proof is found that equipment had been used for spying or sabotage.

Certification of critical equipment would meanwhile have to be obtained from Germany’s cybersecurity authority, the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI).

Those requirements were in line with key ground rules set back in March ahead of the drafting of the full set of rules by the Federal Network Regulator (BNetzA) and the BSI.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Vera Eckert and Douglas Busvine; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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