Deutsche Telekom has proposed a series of measures that would allow China’s Huawei to participate in the development of 5G infrastructure in Germany without posing a security threat.
The company is Europe’s largest and is already cooperating with Huawei in Poland and in its home country of Germany. Deutsche Telekom is trying to avoid a commercial confrontation by pushing for the independent certification of all Chinese-made equipment before deployment. Deutsche has also called for the submission of all source code to a trusted third party so that the operator can gain access if there are reasons to suspect security vulnerabilities.
Since November 2018, Huawei has set up an information and security lab in the German city of Bonn to facilitate greater scrutiny.
The Five Eye nations – the US, UK, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada – have, however, shut Chinese suppliers out of tenders for 5G infrastructure. The US points to Chinese law that requires organisations and individuals to cooperate with China’s intelligence services. Huawei, itself, has come under intense scrutiny from both sides of the Atlantic for its alleged deep ties to the MSS, the Chinese secret police.
In an interview with the public broadcaster ARD, the former President of Germany’s BND Intelligence Service, Gerhard Schnidler, expressed his concerns about what might happen if China used embedded software – like a “kill switch” – if a major confrontation were to take place.
Germany is not a leader in telecommunications technology and has been reluctant to antagonise Huawei; in the German market, as the company’s technology is already embedded in 5G and 4G technology. If Huawei is barred from continuing its operations, Deutsche Telecom would lag behind its competitors in deploying applications that are crucial for high-value manufacturing.