Germany to examine China-made kit in its 5G networks over security concerns

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The German government is examining all Chinese technology in the country's 5G networks amid concerns about national security. The move follows reports last month that Berlin was planning to ban technology from Huawei and ZTE and even require telcos to replace kit already deployed.

This latest development in the German 5G saga is that the nation's Interior Ministry is aiming to inspect all Chinese-made components that are already deployed in its 5G infrastructure.

Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said at the weekend the country had to protect its communication networks, and especially its critical infrastructure, according to a report in newspaper Bild am Sonntag. For this reason, it has been decided to perform an analysis of all China-sourced technology in search of any potential threats.

The German federal government disclosed plans last month to block operators from installing key components from Huawei and ZTE into local 5G networks, as well as requiring them to rip and replace any such existing equipment made by the two Chinese suppliers, in what has delicately been referred to as a review of telecoms suppliers.

As we reported at the time, the German authorities have had growing concerns over the close relationship said to exist between many large Chinese corporations and the country’s government, and that this might potentially give Beijing direct or indirect access to Germany’s telecoms networks.

This is despite such concerns being raised by other countries several years ago, with the US putting in place bans on ZTE and Huawei at the end of 2020. It was also reported that the US had warned the German government about the potential dangers of Chinese telecoms gear the same year.

Germany now appears to be going down the same route as the UK, which was initially confident that any potential threat posed by using Chinese-made equipment in the core networks of various telecoms operators was minimal and could be managed.

However, under political pressure from the US, London caved in and banned telcos from buying equipment from Huawei in particular, and last year issued formal legal notices that any existing kit must be removed by the end of 2027.

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If Germany decides to implement a similar policy, it will likely face a tough challenge; it has been estimated that Huawei kit accounts for nearly 60 percent of Germany's 5G network infrastructure, although this figure came from the Chinese embassy in Berlin.

In the UK, former state-owned operator BT previously gauged the costs of replacing Huawei kit could be about £500 million ($599 million), while mobile operator Vodafone estimated it could be set back €200 million ($213 million).

We asked ZTE for its reaction to this latest news, but it was not immediately able to respond.

However, ZTE previously told us that there was no evidence that its products were insecure, and said: "Our 5G NR products recently received NESAS CCS-GI certificate, demonstrating that we comply with German security standards."

Huawei declined to make a comment on the issue when we asked, but earlier likewise maintained that its products do not represent a security threat. It previously told us that: "The consensus among the vast majority of security experts is that restrictions of a reliable supplier with a strong security record will not make infrastructure more secure." ®

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