The head of the German telecoms regulator has suggested that Huawei will be allowed to participate in the roll out of the country’s 5G infrastructure, dealing a blow to US efforts to curb the Chinese tech giant’s presence in allies’ networks.
In an interview with the Financial Times published on Sunday, Jochen Homann, the head of the Bundesnetzagentur, said that “no equipment supplier, including Huawei, should, or may, be specifically excluded”.
The first 5G networks are likely to run across 4G infrastructure that already uses Huawei equipment. “The operators all work with Huawei technology in their systems, anyway,” said Homann. “If Huawei were excluded from the market, this would delay the roll out of the digital networks.”
Homann’s intervention comes just days after a senior US cyber security official attempted to spin Germany’s decision to develop a framework for 5G security, rather than issue a ban on individual suppliers, as a victory for the US.
“We have encouraged countries to adopt risk-based security frameworks,” he said in remarks reported by Reuters. “And we think that a rigorous application of those frameworks … will lead inevitably to the banning of Huawei.”
“At this point we’re looking for governments to adopt security standards like we’re seeing in Germany,” he added. “We think it was a very positive step forward in the German standards.”
The German framework suggested “core components may only be procured from trustworthy vendors and manufacturers”, signalling that Huawei could be allowed to bid for contracts to supply 5G masts but not components in the centre of the 5G network.
Bloomberg reported last week that the US was urging European governments to only accept 5G equipment from companies based in countries with independent court systems. But Homann’s remarks suggest the initiative, which would see Huawei and fellow Chinese telecoms equipment provider ZTE banned, is unlikely to curry favour in Germany.
Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei has said he would resist attempts by the Chinese government to force the company to comply with intelligence operations, but it is not clear if there is a legal framework in place for him to do so.
The UK will publish its own review of telecoms security in the coming weeks, and is expected to favour a similar approach.