The German government is reportedly preparing to prohibit the use of kit from Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE by operators in the country, affecting not only future installations but also components that have already been deployed, as per reports from Zeit Online citing anonymous sources in government. The Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) and the Federal Ministry of the Interior have been investigating the security risks posed by components of the country’s 5G network for several months to determine if they “could endanger German security.”
The authorities are reportedly concerned that Chinese suppliers could gain direct or indirect access to German mobile networks as they may be controlled by the Chinese government. The authorities are also assessing the possibility of “backdoors” that could provide foreign secret services access to German communication channels. Additionally, there is concern that a foreign power, possibly China, could apply political pressure by turning off components or withholding spare parts, resulting in the disruption of the mobile network.
Nonetheless, according to the report, government agencies confirmed that BSI did not identify any technical evidence that backdoors were hidden in Chinese components. Still, there are “serious indications” that companies such as Huawei and ZTE are under the control of the Chinese government. This rationale is similar to that which resulted in bans in the United Kingdom and the United States, where concerns were raised that the relationship between Chinese Communist Party and Chinese firms would compel the provision of access to their databases if the government demanded it.
The move comes amid the deterioration of the US-China relationship, with the US escalating its attempts to keep Huawei equipment out of the country, and more allies following suit. Nevertheless, the situation in Germany is somewhat perplexing, as ZTE announced last month that its 5G new radio (NR) gNodeB product had received approval under Germany’s network equipment security assurance scheme (NESAS) certification program. ZTE stated that the certification demonstrated compliance with Germany’s rigorous security requirements for product security governance and 5G NR products.
The issue underscores the challenge of balancing the benefits of 5G technology with security concerns. Governments and telecommunications operators worldwide are grappling with ensuring the security of 5G networks while leveraging the technology’s capabilities. The geopolitical context of the US-China relationship adds another layer of complexity to the issue.
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