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Chinese telco gear may become verboten in Germany • The Register

Chinese telco gear may become verboten in Germany • The Register
Chinese telco gear may become verboten in Germany • The Register


Germany may soon remove Huawei and ZTE equipment from its 5G networks, according to media reports.

Bloomberg reported last Friday that Germany’s Foreign Office and Ministry for Economic Affairs support an Interior Ministry proposal to remove the Chinese-made tech on grounds of national security.

Under the plan, German telcos would be required to remove critical components made by Huawei and ZTE from core networks before January 1, 2026, and further reduce structural dependency on Chinese parts in access and transport networks by 2029.

Reports alleged that opposition from industry players is preventing the Digital Ministry from agreeing to the plan, although a spokesperson for the ministry denied the claim.

The stated reason for banning Chinese manufacturers of telco kit usually involves Article 7 of China’s National Intelligence Law, which requires citizens and organizations to cooperate with authorities. It’s widely interpreted as meaning that it’s likely any Chinese person with knowledge of a customer’s network would be compelled to share what they know about it – a rich source of info for intelligence-gathering efforts.

Japan, Australia and Canada have therefore banned use of Huawei kit on government networks.

The UK banned the purchase of Huawei gear for 5G networks in 2020. Removal of any gear left in systems is required by the end of 2027.

In the summer of 2023, The EU labelled Huawei a “high risk supplier.” European commissioner Thierry Breton urged restriction of both Huawei and ZTE from member nations’ national infrastructure, but did not make any wide sweeping bans. However, some member states – like Sweden in 2020 – have imposed their own bans.

Germany has not implemented a ban – even as it decided not to use Huawei in the critical core of its 5G – perhaps owing to impracticality and cost. But the pressure is there: it was reportedly threatened with limiting of intelligence sharing with allies, should it continue to rely on the vendor.

Germany’s state-owned rail operator Deutsche Bahn estimated it would cost upwards of €400 million if a rip-and-replace order is issued.

And that’s just one entity – the Chinese embassy believes 60 percent of Germany’s 5G network equipment comes from Huawei.

The United States itself underestimated how much it would cost to rip and replace existing kit. In May of 2023, the FCC revealed it needed approximately $5 billion for the endeavor – over $3 billion more than was originally allocated. ®

Chinese telco gear may become verboten in Germany • The Register

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