The traffic light government in Berlin is considering kicking Huawei and ZTE out of Germany’s 5G mobile networks. wants relevant information mirror and Handelsblatt of the Federal Ministry of the Interior. According to the Handelsblatt, the Interior Ministry reserves the right to order grid operators to remove critical components from “unreliable” manufacturers – even if they are already in operation. Especially if further use could have consequences for public order and security in the Federal Republic of Germany.
Telekom, Vodafone and O2/Telefónica would be particularly affected by such a decision. The mobile phone providers are opting for a two-pronged approach when expanding their networks, relying on equipment from European providers Nokia and Ericsson and Chinese suppliers Huawei and ZTE. However, the network operators have been installing equipment from European providers only in the actual 5G core network for a long time, against the background of the ongoing discussions about the security of Chinese mobile communication components. ZTE and Huawei are only used for the actual antenna networks.
Nevertheless, things are likely to get expensive if Berlin insists on expanding the components. It is known, for example, that Telekom does not convert 5G in many locations, but upgrades the existing 4G/LTE components with a kind of upgrade. Only compatible components from the original supplier can be used for this. If the Ministry of Interior were to issue an official ban on Huawei and ZTE equipment, carriers in these locations would have to fundamentally update their technology. And this can be very expensive. Throwing out Huawei and ZTE technology is likely to cost the US $3 billion. There, however, only a few smaller rural mobile network operators used the technology made in China and not the rural carriers like in Germany. A corresponding decision by the federal government, industry speculation is, could have negative consequences for mobile phone tariffs.
The discussion about the security of mobile communication technology from China is not new. In the US and Australia, rumors have been circulating for years about built-in back doors and spy software in Huawei and ZTE products. However, none of these allegations have been proven so far – while Edward Snowden’s revelations certainly support the suspicion that the US, for its part, is asking its manufacturers to install backdoors.
In this country, since the change of the Telecommunications Act (TKG) 2021 a certification obligation for critical components of networks. However, the BSI, as the responsible authority, did not launch its certification program for 5G equipment until July 1, 2022, so the results are yet to be seen. However, the BSI has investigated Huawei products in the past and was unable to discover any suspicious security vulnerabilities.
In the current discussion about a ban on Huawei and ZTE technology in the 5G networks, the federal government is not relying on the TKG, but on a back door in the law on the Federal Office of Information Security, which is also part of the ICT security law 2.0 is There it is stated in §9b BSIG that the government can prohibit the use of critical components “if their use could harm public order or security in the Federal Republic of Germany”. The traffic light coalition partners fear that the current political developments in and in relation to China will make them too dependent on mobile communication technology. There is also the fear that the 5G networks will suddenly stop working because spare parts no longer come from China. Or a hidden kill switch will be activated.
The arguments and fears are at least understandable. But if the danger is really that great, another question arises: what about the private 5G networks that many companies are currently building? Here, the use of Huawei and ZTE equipment can pose a risk for industrial espionage. And since the 5G networks are mission-critical for many companies in terms of robotics control, the economy could develop a similar dependency to the supply of chips – i.e. production stops if spare parts for 5G are missing. Politicians have not yet included these considerations in their deliberations.