Germany clocks that ripping out Huawei, ZTE network kit won't be cheap or easy

More than half of Euro nation's infrastructure would have to go

Ripping and replacing Huawei and ZTE equipment from German carrier networks is going to be a painful process, according to the country's economy ministry.

The letter to the Bundestag lower house of parliament's economic committee, obtained by Reuters, warns that "there is likely to be significant impact on the operation of mobile networks and the fulfillment of coverage requirements," if the country removes Chinese telecommunications technologies from its network.

Germany is one of several European countries whose carriers have widely deployed Chinese telecommunications equipment — particularly systems supplied by Huawei. Earlier this month, the Chinese embassy estimated that Huawei equipment accounts for nearly 60 percent of Germany's network equipment.

While the US has mandated that US telecommunications and network service providers remove any Huawei or ZTE-made equipment from their networks as far back as 2020, Germany has waffled on whether to follow suit. The country is in the process of reviewing the technology stack used in the nation's networks.

According to the report, the ministry stopped short of putting a number on the total economic cost of such a decision. However, as the laws are written, carriers could end up footing the bill to replace the hardware.

As we saw in the US, a rip-and-replace program could end up costing billions. The FCC reports that as of early 2022, US carriers had applied for $5.6 billion in reimbursements for removing Chinese made networking gear from their networks.

Huawei is one of the largest suppliers of 5G networking and telecommunications equipment. The company has made major inroads over the past decade thanks in part to lower prices compared to competing equipment sellers. However, some — particularly in the US — have warned that the company's close affiliation with the Chinese government poses a substantial security risk.

The main concern being that Chinese intelligence services could force Huawei to place back doors into their equipment allowing them to spy on foreign nations. Huawei has repeatedly rejected this and the Chinese embassy recently characterized the claims as an attempt to smear Huawei with trumped-up charges."

However, as more countries, including the UK, move to nix Chinese vendors from their networks, pressure to do something could ultimately drive Germany to follow suit. ®

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