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Germany proposes new rules to restrict Huawei’s role in 5G

Germany’s interior ministry is planning to force telecoms operators to slash the use of equipment from Huawei and ZTE in their 5G networks after a review highlighted an over-reliance on these Chinese suppliers, a government official said.

The ministry has designed a staggered approach to avoid too much disruption as operators remove all critical components from Chinese vendors in their 5G core networks by 2026, the official said.

The operators, like Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone, should also reduce the share of Chinese components in their RAN and transport networks by Oct. 1, 2026, to a maximum of 25%, said the official, who declined to be named.

Huawei currently accounts for 59% of Germany’s 5G RAN networks, according to a survey by telecommunications consultancy Strand Consult.

In especially sensitive regions like the capital Berlin, home of the federal government, Chinese tech should not be used at all, the official said.

The interior ministry wants to present its approach to cabinet from next week but could face resistance from the ministry for digital affairs due to concerns it might affect Germany’s already slow progress with digitalization.

Germany is considered a laggard in implementing the European Union’s toolbox of security measures for 5G networks. The measures were agreed three years ago to curb the use of vendors the bloc considers “high risk” – including Huawei and ZTE – due to concerns about possible sabotage or espionage. The two companies deny their equipment poses a security risk.

Last week, the government said in response to a parliamentary enquiry that it had so far not forbidden the use of any new Chinese critical components in 5G networks since an IT security law allowing it to do so came into effect in May 2021.

“It is incomprehensible that (Interior Minister Nancy) Faeser allows Huawei components to still be used in our mobile networks,” said Reinhard Brandl, spokesperson for digital policy for the parliamentary grouping of the opposition conservatives.

The interior ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Germany’s use of Huawei in particular has come under public scrutiny over the past two years given the government’s tougher stance on China and quest to reduce its dependence on individual countries in light of the energy crisis prompted by German reliance on Russian gas.

The interior ministry has come to the conclusion that there is an “urgent need” to act to avoid a second Nord Stream, the official said, referring to pipelines meant to bring cheap Russian gas to Germany but which are no longer in use. Reuters

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