BERLIN (Reuters) – German ministers were due to meet on Wednesday to discuss how to safeguard security in future 5G mobile networks, two government sources said, amid intense debate over whether to shut China’s Huawei Technologies out of the market.
FILE PHOTO: A man walks by a Huawei logo at a shopping mall in Shanghai, China, Dec. 6, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo
Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Germany needs guarantees that Huawei would not hand data to the Chinese state before it can take part in building fifth-generation networks that would link everything from vehicles to factories at far greater speeds.
Dieter Kempf, head of the Federation of German Industry (BDI), threw his weight behind Merkel, saying that ensuring firms like Huawei meet tough security standards would be wiser than a blanket ban on China.
“It makes no sense,” Kempf told Reuters in an interview. “It would narrow the choice of vendors. That could affect costs. More importantly, there would be political consequences – China could be tempted to retaliate against German companies.”
The Handelsblatt daily cited government sources as saying the meeting would focus on whether a security catalog, drafted by the federal network regulator (BNetzA) and cybersecurity watchdog (BSI), along with certification rules and a no-spy pact with China, would be enough to make 5G safe.
Huawei, the global networks market leader with annual sales exceeding $100 billion, faces international scrutiny over its ties with the Chinese government and suspicion Beijing could use its technology for spying, which the company denies.
A State Department official said on Tuesday that Washington sees the European Union as its top priority in a global effort to convince allies not to buy Huawei equipment for next-generation mobile networks over espionage concerns.
The German ministers’ session, scheduled after the weekly cabinet meeting, and attended by the interior, economy, finance, and transport ministers, follows a first high-level meeting last week.
At that gathering, attended by Germany’s three network operators, market leader Deutsche Telekom proposed a series of technical and compliance measures to safeguard security.
These included setting up an independent laboratory, under BSI oversight, to scrutinize all equipment used in critical infrastructure before it is deployed in the field.
“I believe the right path would be to make sure we manage our risks when it comes to tenders,” Kempf said.
“We must convey our reservations to the Chinese side and make it clear what we will not tolerate in our legal system.”
Government and industry sources said no decision was expected on Wednesday about whether to bar Huawei from Germany’s 5G auction, which is due to be held in the second half of March.
Sources say the different stakeholders have yet to reach a consensus on what course of action to take. Nor do they agree on whether a decision is needed before the 5G auction, which would provide clarity to operators before they strike deals to upgrade their networks to ready them for the launch of 5G services.
Additional reporting by Riham Alkousaa, Nadine Schimroszik and Michael Nienaber; Writing by Michelle Martin and Douglas Busvine; Editing by Mark Potter and Kirsten Donovan