The German minister backs more stringent rules for telecom suppliers

BERLIN (Reuters) – Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has thrown its weight behind a proposal to reform the German telecommunications act to toughen security requirements for foreign suppliers of network, the RND group of newspapers reported on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: The booth of Huawei is pictured at the sponsors area during the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party congress in Hamburg, Germany, December 7, 2018. REUTERS/Andreas Rinke/File Photo

Seehofer’s intervention increases the chance that Germany will tighten the supervision on Huawei Technologies , sidestepping pressure from the United States to exclude the Chinese company from the market.

The government and industry leaders want clarity about the rules of the game before Germany on the buildout of the next generation 5G mobile networks by the auction of spectrum in the end of March.

Citing participants at a meeting of the conservatives and the Social Democrats, who rule together in a grand coalition, RND said Seehofer’s goal was to have a better control of the Huawei – and not to prohibit it.

The best way to achieve this would be by the amendment of an article in the German telecommunications act, which addresses safety. This would apply to all sellers and should not be seen as a direct response to Huawei, coalition sources told RND.

Seehofer is the key, because his department oversees the BSI cybersecurity agency that it is preparing a catalogue of the proposed security steps together with the Federal Network Regulator who monitor the spectrum auction.

The officials are also worried that, should a decision ultimately be taken to block Huawei, there must be a sound legal basis to do so.

Consultations continue, a senior government source told Reuters earlier on Tuesday, and a final decision on whether to let Chinese companies take part in 5G is unlikely that within the next two weeks.

Work still needs to be done to address the cost, the feasibility and the safety measures, said the source, the reduction of messages in the German press that officials had hammered out a common approach.


Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that Germany must ensure that Huawei would not hand data to the Chinese state, before they can take part in the building of the fifth-generation networks that link everything from vehicles, factories at a much higher speed.

Such a no-spy pledge would come in addition to a catalog of measures for the security hardening of the certification of the procedures for minimizing the risk that the equipment in the network is equipped with ‘back doors’ that would expose it to cyber espionage.

Huawei, the global networking market leader with a turnover of more than $100 billion, faces international control over its ties with the Chinese government, and the presumption Beijing could use the technology to spy, which the company denies.

The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo drove home that message in Budapest on Monday, warning their allies in central Europe that the implementation of the equipment of Huawei would make it more difficult for Washington “to a partner next to them”.

Germany’s three telecom operators – Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Telefonica Deutschland – use Huawei equipment in their networks, and have warned that curbing the choice of their suppliers can be costly.

Deutsche Telekom has, for its part, a proposal for a series of measures for ensuring the security, including the setting up of an independent laboratory to examine the equipment used in the critical infrastructure, before it is implemented in the field.

Additional reporting by Nadine Schimroszik; Writing by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Keith Weir

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