Chinese telecom giants Huawei and ZTE are facing a possible ban from parts of Germany’s 5G networks over concerns that they could provide a backdoor to China, a German paper reported on Monday.
Germany’s government is planning on forbidding domestic telecom operators from using certain ‘control’ components made by the Chinese companies in their 5G networks, Zeit Online reported.
The ban could include components already built into the networks, requiring operators to remove and replace them, Zeit Online wrote, citing government sources.
Security agencies, which are in the midst of a survey of 5G networks in Germany, fear “backdoors could be installed in the technology of such suppliers,” the report said.
“A foreign power could also exert political pressure on Germany by switching off such components at the same time or by no longer supplying spare parts, thereby paralysing the mobile network,” it added.
Surveying officials, however, did not find any signs that there were secret backdoors in parts provided by the Chinese companies, Zeit Online said.
Concerns over rising Huawei dependance
The survey comes amid rising concerns over Germany becoming increasingly dependent on “foreign products” for critical infrastructure, Zeit Online reported.
A report showed late last year that Europe’s largest economy has actually become even more dependent on Huawei for its 5G radio access network equipment (RAN) than in its 4G network. That was despite operators avoiding using the firm’s technology for core networks.
Zeit Online said the government’s cybersecurity agency and interior ministry had for months been checking if there were components in the growing 5G networks that could put German security at risk.
The survey had not officially been ended, but the result was already clear, the Zeit Online report said, citing government sources.
Germany passed an IT security law in 2021 setting high hurdles for makers of telecommunications equipment for the “critical components” of 5G networks. However, it stopped short of banning Huawei and ZTE as some other countries have done.
‘Good security record’
Critics of Huawei and ZTE have raised concerns over the firms’ close links to China’s security services. Embedding them in the ubiquitous mobile networks of the future could give Chinese spies and even saboteurs access to swathes of essential infrastructure, they say.
Huawei, ZTE and the Chinese government reject these claims, saying that they are motivated by a protectionist desire to support non-Chinese rivals.
The German government, which is in the midst of a broader re-evaluation of its relationship with top trade partner China, did not immediately reply to a request for comment. However, a source confirmed the report to Reuters.
A Huawei spokesperson did not comment on speculation about a possible ban on the use of certain components. The company had a “very good security record” during its 20 years of delivering its technology to Germany and the rest of the world, the spokesperson said.
ZTE did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
- Reuters, with additional editing by Vishakha Saxena