Bulgaria to block Huawei and ZTE as US turns to Egypt

Bulgaria to block Huawei and ZTE as US attention turns to Egypt

27 October 2020 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

Cover

The US has persuaded Bulgaria to block the use of Huawei and ZTE kit in its 5G networks and the US is now asking Egypt to adopt its so-called Clean Network programme.

According to Reuters, the US embassy in Bulgaria said the country was joining what it called a “growing coalition of countries and companies committed to protecting their 5G networks from untrusted vendors”.

The agency quoted Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borissov (pictured) saying that the European Union has already provided guidelines on 5G network security. The Bulgarian government’s statement did not mention any specific vendors or what the document would mean for Bulgarian telecoms operators that will develop the 5G networks.

The US State Department, which handles international relations, began the Clean Network initiative in May 2020. According to the State Department, the programme is “the Trump administration’s comprehensive approach to safeguarding the nation’s assets including citizens’ privacy and companies’ most sensitive information from aggressive intrusions by malign actors, such as the Chinese Communist Party”.

Both Huawei and ZTE deny that they are subject to direction of the Communist Party in China or that the are controlled by the Chinese government.

The US has now turned its attention to Egypt, according to the Ecofin news agency, citing Middle East Monitor. The US embassy in Egypt has “urged the authorities in Cairo to join its programme dubbed ‘Clean Network’ to obtain this technology from ‘reliable partners’.”

The US claims that more than 40 countries and 60 global telecommunications and technology companies are part of the alliance, including Oracle, Hewlett Packard and Verizon in the US, and Telefónica in Spain.

In Bulgaria, Borisov announced the country was joining the programme yesterday, said Ecofin.

Keith Krach, US undersecretary for economic affairs, said in a video released by the Bulgarian government: “Bulgaria is in a good company. As a member of the Nato Alliance it now joins 27 of the 30 Nato member states as a member of the Clean Network.”

In August 2020 US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expanded the idea of the Clean Network from the initial Clean Carrier idea to include apps and app stores, cloud services – in which he named Alibaba, Baidu, China Mobile, China Telecom and Tencent – and subsea cable connections.

He has also announced the so-called Clean Path initiative, covering US diplomatic premises and their use of 5G network. The State Department said: “The 5G Clean Path is an end-to-end communication path that does not use any transmission, control, computing, or storage equipment from untrusted IT vendors, such as Huawei and ZTE, which are required to comply with directives of the Chinese Communist Party.”