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Huawei At The Center Of Intelligence Rift Between The U.S. And Germany

Germany is trying to keep several plates spinning as it navigates its way into the 5G era, including attempts to fend off growing U.S. anger over its resistance to banning equipment supplied by Huawei.

According to a raft of news reports, many of which cited U.S. sources as well as the original report in The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, said the United States would limit intelligence sharing with Germany if Huawei is allowed to be part of Germany’s 5G infrastructure. Apparently, Germany confirmed receipt of the letter, and said it would respond quickly.

Germany seems to have fallen out with the U.S. government over the former’s failure to explicitly ban Huawei from future network deployments, including 5G. The German government’s approach has been to tighten security regulations. Government telecom regulator Bundesnetzagentur just published what it described as “key elements of its additional security requirements for telecommunications networks and services,” which have been drawn up together with Germany’s cybersecurity agency (BSI).

German telecom giant Deutsche Telekom is said to have warned that the rollout of 5G technology in Europe could be delayed by at least two years if wireless service providers are forced to remove the China-based vendor from their lists of 5G equipment suppliers.

Huawei, for its part, is fighting back. Last week the vendor filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government challenging a section of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that bans the U.S. government, its contractors, and suppliers from purchasing Huawei equipment and services.

German 5G Spectrum Plans

Germany’s telecom regulator is also preparing to auction 5G spectrum licenses, and has confirmed that four operators will take part: Drillisch Netz AG; Telefónica Germany; Deutsche Telekom; and Vodafone Germany. The auction is due to start on March 19, and will allocate spectrum in the 2 GHz and 3.4 GHz-3.7 GHz bands.

The government agency is facing resistance from operators over terms of the licenses. Three of the operators have filed separate legal action over the license award conditions in a bid to gain legal clarity over matters such as national roaming and network sharing, the obligation to allow service providers to access future 5G networks, and “ambitious” 5G coverage requirements. Telefónica Germany and Vodafone Germany have augmented their existing legal action with emergency injunctions for a temporary suspension of the award process.

Meanwhile, the regulator has also indicated it intends to allocate spectrum in the 3.7 GHz-3.8 GHz band on a more localized basis – a move that is unlikely to be welcomed by the operators. Indeed, Luke Ibbetson, chief engineer at Vodafone Group, has already expressed what might well be the general view of operators here. During the recent MWC Barcelona event in Spain, Ibbetson said Vodafone believes spectrum is best deployed in large blocks, and it would generally not support carving out spectrum for vertical sectors.

The idea in Germany is to allow the construction of local networks that would support industrial use cases. Major industrial groups including Volkswagen, Daimler Siemens, and BASF are said to have expressed interest in obtaining local 5G spectrum to support connected facilities.―SDX Central

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