US urges EU to reconsider role of Huawei in 5G

Image Credit: J.Lekavicius / Shutterstock (Image credit: Huawei)

The US has stepped up efforts to get its allies to ban mobile operators from using Huawei’s equipment in their 5G rollouts.

Last year it emerged the US, which has long frozen out the company from its own telecommunications infrastructure, had been encouraging other western nations to take similar action.

Although no nation has made such a move, officials in the Czech Republic and Germany are among those understood to have concerns, while last week it was reported that the European Commission (EC) is considering a de facto ban on 5G.

Huawei EU 5G

According to Reuters, US officials has held talks with the European Union and the Belgian government in Brussels, while it also plans discussions with other leaders.

“We are saying you need to be very, very cautious and we are urging folks not to rush ahead and sign contracts with untrusted suppliers from countries like China,” as US official is quoted as saying. “Going with an untrusted supplier like Huawei or ZTE will have all sorts of ramifications for your national security and ... since we are military allies with almost all members of the European Union, on our national security as well.”

The main basis for Washington’s fears is a perception that Huawei is linked to the Chinese government and that the use of the company’s equipment risks the possibility of backdoors that could be used for espionage. These fears are heightened by 5G because of the sensitive information these networks will carry.

Huawei has repeatedly denied accusations of spying, pointing out that it works with security agencies around the world and that it sells products to more than 500 operators in 170 countries without issue. This includes the UK, where BT, EE, Vodafone and Three are all customers.

Indeed, there is little appetite for a ban within the industry, with many fearing higher prices and a loss of innovation if operators are unable to use Huawei equipment. Some believe a European ban could set back the continent’s ambition to become a 5G leader – especially when it comes to new consumer and industrial applications.

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.