EU warns member states to choose 5G suppliers carefully

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The European Commission (EC) has suggested that telecoms equipment from non-European manufacturers could pose a greater threat than that made within the EU.

In a risk assessment, the Commission said 5G would increase the volume of threats when compared to current generations of mobile networks because of the increased volume of connected devices and the sensitive data that will be transmitted.

It believes network availability and security will be elevated to a national concern because of the public services and industries that will rely on constant connectivity.

EU 5G security

Specifically, the EC is concerned that mobile operators will become more dependent on their suppliers and that if there is a vulnerability – either accidental or otherwise – in the software used then the results could be a threat to national security. This threat, it said, would be greater if operators used a single vendor in their infrastructure.

No vendor or country was named specifically by the Commission, however.

“Among the various potential actors, non-EU States or State-backed are considered as the most serious ones and the most likely to target 5G networks,” it said. “In this context of increased exposure to attacks facilitated by suppliers, the risk profile of individual suppliers will become particularly important, including the likelihood of the supplier being subject to interference from a non-EU country.”

Sweden’s Ericsson and Finland’s Nokia are competing with China’s Huawei in the battle to supply European operators with 5G kit, with Cisco and Samsung also involved. However the US has effectively frozen Huawei out of its market on national security grounds and is urging its allies to do the same.

However the US has not provided any evidence to support its claim, while Huawei has repeatedly denied any allegations of wrongdoing. In any case, there would be little appetite for a ban among European operators who fear prices would rise and innovation would be stifled.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.