Berlin is floating regulations to kick out Chinese espionage-suspected firms Huawei and ZTE from Germany’s telecommunication services in a possibly significant step to address security concerns.
On March 6, German media stated that the German prohibition might pertain to network components that have already been implemented, compelling providers to remove and replace them.
Germany passed an IT security law in 2021 that placed strict requirements on telecom equipment manufacturers for next-generation networks. Still, it did not outright ban Huawei and ZTE, even as it has been pushed to establish laws allowing it to take drastic action against the companies.
‘Nothing else to report’
When asked whether Germany should push further and get stricter on surveilling other technologies than 5G, German Counsellor Olaf Scholz said at a press conference:
“Your question cannot be answered in an abstract or generalized manner. It is about implementing existing legislation, institutional responsibilities are also in place, and everyone is doing their jobs, and there is nothing else to report,” Scholz added.
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On Tuesday, March 7, a representative for the interior ministry said that the German government was conducting an overall evaluation of telecoms technology providers but added that this wasn’t targeted at any particular firms.
However, an interior ministry paper surfaced that stated that If a particular supplier is proven to be indirectly or directly controlled by the administration of another country, that supplier should be prohibited from delivering key parts, according to Reuters.
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“We cannot be reliant on components of individual suppliers,” said Christian Lindner, Finance Minister on Welt TV, according to the news network.
As no operators had previously been prohibited from using specific components from Chinese companies in their 5G networks, the review could result in Germany instructing operators to eliminate and substitute features already built into networks, according to German Interior Ministry spokesman Maximilian Kall.
“The main change is that these strict checks for potential security risks now also apply to the existing components in telecommunications networks, in the telecommunications networks,” the spokesman continued.
“These existing components will also be critically checked in the next few months,” Kall said, adding that operators wouldn’t receive payment for components that needed to be removed from the network and swapped for devices from trusted sources.
Taking China-related risks to national security seriously
“This is a sign that the German government may finally be taking China-related risks to national security seriously,” Noah Barkin, managing editor of the research firm Rhodium Group’s China Practice, remarked.
“But after years of dithering, the German 5G network deeply depends on Chinese suppliers. It will take many years to unwind this,” Barkin said.
According to their detractors, the inclusion of Huawei and ZTE in the future’s omnipresent mobile networks might enable Chinese spies and even saboteurs access to crucial infrastructure because of their strong ties to Beijing’s security agencies.
These allegations are denied by Huawei, ZTE, and the Chinese communist regime, who assert they are driven by a protectionist desire to aid non-Chinese competitors.
With 20 years of supplying technology to Germany and the rest of the world, Huawei has an “excellent security record,” according to a representative. Huawei also stated that it does not comment on rumors. No proof has been shown, according to a ZTE spokesperson, suggesting that its technologies are unsafe, but the company embraces outsider examination.
Interestingly, the German government could not respond to a parliamentary inquiry last month on how many Huawei components operators were employed in their 5G networks. The complaint was launched in part in response to the report.
“It’s disconcerting that the government only right now starts to do a thorough mapping of where operators use Huawei and ZTE components and that they don’t have that information in real time,” commented Thorsten Benner of the Global Public Policy Institute in Berlin.
Reuters contributed to this article