Saturday, 29 February 2020

Tighten restrictions, don’t ban Huawei 5G, say Merkel’s conservatives

by Harry Baldock, Total Telecom
Wednesday 12 February 20

A position paper from the German Chancellor’s party urges a tougher stance on foreign vendors but rejects explicit bans

Last month, the UK finally made its decision as to whether to ban Huawei from its 5G networks, deciding against an outright ban but limiting ‘high risk’ operators to a 35% of the access network and restricting them from the core.   Now, Germany is poised to make its own decision, facing enormous political pressure from both the US and China.   In a position paper drafted by lawmakers from Merkel&rsquo…

Last month, the UK finally made its decision as to whether to ban Huawei from its 5G networks, deciding against an outright ban but limiting ‘high risk’ operators to a 35% of the access network and restricting them from the core.
 
Now, Germany is poised to make its own decision, facing enormous political pressure from both the US and China.
 
In a position paper drafted by lawmakers from Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party, measures of intense security scrutiny are suggested while avoiding the arbitrary banning of companies like Huawei. 
 
“State actors with sufficient resources can infiltrate the network of any equipment maker,” read the paper. “Even with comprehensive technical checks, security risks cannot be eliminated completely — they can at best be minimised.
 
“At the same time, we are not defenceless against attempts to eavesdrop on 5G networks. The use of strong cryptography and end-to-end encryption can secure confidentiality in communication and the exchange of data.”
 
It advocates distinct measures for the access, transport, and core networks, as well as a multi-vendor approach to maintain network diversity.
 
It is hoped that this document will go some way to pacifying rebels within the government who side with the US in seeking a complete ban of Huawei, therefore paving the way for the coalition government to reach a unified compromise.
 
The position the paper advocates comes as no real surprise. The three network operators in Germany all use Huawei to varying extents and a full ban would lead to a hugely expensive process of removing and replacing Chinese kit, undoubtedly slowing the country’s 5G roll out. Indeed, the UK’s 35% cap is already set to cost BT around £500 million as it replaces the equipment.
 
Compared to the UK’s three-year time limit to comply with these new regulations, the position paper is slightly more generous, allowing operators until 2025 to replace 4G equipment that was supplied by vendors who failed certification checks.
 
If the German government does choose to follow the position laid out in this paper, it would likely be well received by the nation’s telcos but would surely prompt the ire of the US. That said, the same could be said of the UK’s decision – arguably even more crucial for US diplomatic prestige – and no trade or intelligence sanctions have yet been forthcoming. 
On the other hand, China’s threats against a German ban on Huawei have been much more direct.
 
Merkel has previously stated that Germany’s decision would not be heard until after the security conference in Munich taking place this weekend, at which U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi are also attending.
 
 
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