BERLIN — Germany’s government is planning on forbidding telecoms operators from using certain components from Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE in their 5G networks, German paper Zeit Online reported on Monday.
The ban could include components already built into the networks, requiring operators to remove and replace them, Zeit Online wrote, citing government sources.
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The government, which is now 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. A source, however, confirmed the report to Reuters. Critics of Huawei and ZTE say that their close links to China’s security services mean that embedding them in the ubiquitous mobile networks of the future could give Chinese spies and even saboteurs access to swathes of essential infrastructure.
Huawei, ZTE and the Chinese government reject these claims, saying that they are motivated by a protectionist desire to support non-Chinese rivals.
A Huawei spokesperson said it did not comment on speculation about a possible ban on the use of certain components, and noted the company had a “very good security record” during its 20 years of delivering its technology to Germany and the rest of the world. ZTE did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Germany passed an IT security law in 2021 setting high hurdles for makers of telecommunications equipment for next-generation networks, but stopping short of banning Huawei and ZTE as some other countries have done.
A new report shows that Germany has actually become even more dependent on Huawei for its 5G radio access network equipment (RAN) than in its 4G network, even though operators have avoided using the firm’s technology for the 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 paper said, citing government sources. The government would ban operators from using certain controlling elements from Huawei and ZTE in 5G networks. (Reporting by Sarah Marsh, Andreas Rinke and Christian Ruettger Editing by Nick Zieminski and Tomasz Janowski)