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Germany won't ban Huawei but tightens rules for all 5G vendors

(Image credit: Huawei)
(Image credit: Huawei)

US-led attempts to encourage other nations to ban Huawei kit from their telecoms infrastructure have been dealt a blow by the Germany decision not to impose company specific-restrictions.

Concerns about the use of Huawei’s gear are largely founded on Huawei’s perceived links to the Chinese government and a belief that legislation requires firms in China to assist in state surveillance.

Huawei has emphatically denied any such accusations and there is little appetite from mobile operators for a ban as they fear this would reduce innovation and increase prices. There is also the possibility a ban could delay the rollout of 5G.

Huawei Germany

There had been speculation that Germany was considering a ban on Huawei equipment on national security grounds, while the US had been particularly keen that its allies – especially those with US military bases – would follow its lead.

However, the German communications regulator Bundesnetzagentur (BNetzA) has published new regulations that tighten security criteria for all vendors – not just Huawei. These changes have been endorsed the government, which has said it doesn’t want to ban the Shenzhen-based firm.

All equipment in German mobile networks will need to be tested at the federal cyber security agency (BSI) before they can be used, while operators will be obligated to monitor their infrastructure for abnormalities.

To further mtigiate the threat of a potential backdoor, BNetzA says it wants operators to diversify their suppliers and avoid “monocultures”. The regulator has also demanded provisions for redundancy, mitigating the threat of a foreign actor or cybercriminal using a backdoor to shut down critical communications.

"We revise the security requirements on a regular basis in light of the current security situation and technological developments," explained Jochen Homann, BNetzA President. "Security requirements apply to all network operators and service providers, irrespective of the technology they deploy. All networks, not just individual standards like 5G, are included."

The development is a boost for Huawei, which has largely been excluded from the US market and from Australia’s 5G rollout. Meanwhile New Zealand operator Spark has been prevented from using Huawei technology in its 5G network.

A UK decision is expected as soon as next month. It is thought that British operators will be limited to using Huawei products in no more than half of their networks and an outright ban is unlikely.