Germany ‘to demand removal’ of Huawei and ZTE kit from 5G nets
Germany is set to ban the use of Huawei and ZTE equipment in the country’s mobile networks, according to reports last night.
An extensive report in the newspaper Die Zeit says the government security agency and the interior ministry will shortly tell mobile operators to remove electronic equipment supplied by the two companies.
Die Zeit said in its report: “The security authorities not only see the danger that backdoors could be built into the technology of such suppliers, which could give foreign secret services access to German communication channels.”
But it adds that “a foreign power could also exert political pressure on Germany by switching off such components at the same time or by no longer supplying spare parts, thereby paralyzing the mobile phone network”.
According to the paper, the change in heart comes from the Bundesamts für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik (BSI, Federal Office for Information Security) and from the Bundesinnenministerium (Federal Ministry of the Interior). Die Zeit has not quoted any officials or politicians in its report, though the account appears to be well sourced.
This contrasts with the attitude of the BSI four years ago when the BSI rejected calls to exclude Huawei and ZTE kit from the country’s networks, saying there was a lack of evidence. The BSI then told operators in Germany – Telefónica and Vodafone as well as Deutsche Telekom – that there were “currently no reliable findings”.
Die Zeit says it learned of the change in attitude “from government circles”, without naming any sources. “This ban should also affect components that have already been installed by the providers. That would force companies to retool,” says the paper.
The BSI and the Interior Ministry has been testing components in Germany’s 5G networks. “This test has not yet been officially completed, but the result is now apparently certain,” says Die Zeit, which points out that under a new law the security agency and Ministry of the Interior now require operators to seek approval for the use of “technical components for critical IT infrastructures”.
Die Zeit points to parallels with the US, where Huawei and ZTE are effectively banned from telecoms networks and the UK, where the government in 2020 declared Huawei to be a “high-risk vendor”. It limited Huawei’s contribution to 5G networks and has since tightened those limits.
Since then Huawei has significantly reduced its presence in the UK market.
Die Zeit says the German government will set a transitional period for the removal of Huawei and ZTE equipment and the replacement with kit from approved suppliers.
“The German authorities now want to examine the entire 5G network[s],” says Die Zeit, “with all the components that have been installed in it for a long time.”
A full test “should last until the summer”, and then there will be a period of deciding which components should be banned.