German industrialist warns about ‘Huawei interference’ in 5G

Kempf and Merkel.jpg

Senior German industrialist Dieter Kempf has warned against the use of Huawei equipment by the country’s telecoms network – though he did not name the Chinese vendor.

Speaking to the business newspaper Handelsblatt, Kempf (pictured with German chancellor Angela Merkel) has issued a coded warning about “interference by foreign countries”.

The move could be significant in the German federal government’s imminent decision whether or not to approve the use of Huawei by Deutsche Telekom and others.

Observers in the telecoms industry are waiting for a decision by the UK government – expected this week – on whether to permit Huawei into 5G networks. Many believe that Germany will be guided by the UK’s lead, as will other countries, such as Canada, France and New Zealand.

Deutsche Telekom was a considerable fan of Huawei when it was rolling out its pan-European all-IP network, though the company’s executives have been more reserved in public in the past two years.

Kempf told Handelsblatt, in a clear reference to Huawei, “There must be no interference by foreign countries. … The security of data and networks has top priority.”

He added: “If a manufacturer does not meet the technical, political and legal criteria of the EU and the [German] federal government, it must be excluded from participating in the development of the German network.”

Kempf was speaking in his role as president of the German Industry Association (Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie, BDI), but he is also a member of Germany’s Data Ethics Commission (DEK, Daten Ethik Commission), set up by the federal government in 2018, giving his words extra weight in Berlin.

Handelsblatt made it clear which companies he was talking about, pointing out to readers that “only three providers are currently eligible for network expansion – Huawei, Nokia and Ericsson”, and noting that “Nokia and Ericsson are European companies – their trustworthiness is not an issue”.

He said the federal government should set out “more stringent regulations” on security “in the first quarter”.