Deutsche Telekom proposes tests to prove Huawei 5G security

31 Jan 2019

Image: Deutsche Telekom

The US and its allies have stoked the fire but will Germany’s leading telco prove the war hawks right or finally help to bring a civilised end to the hysteria?

Claims that Huawei 5G equipment opens the door to Chinese espionage are about to be put to the test by straight-talking, no-nonsense telco Deutsche Telekom.

It has emerged that Deutsche Telekom has proposed a series of measures to ensure that future 5G networks are safe and free from cyberespionage.

The claims have already proven damaging to the Chinese telecoms equipment vendor with operators such as BT and Vodafone hitting pause on equipment deployments in their core networks while countries such as Australia have barred its equipment.

The US Department of Justice has gone as far as filing criminal charges against the world’s second largest smartphone maker. In Canada, Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou was arrested and then released on bail regarding the alleged breach of US-imposed bans on dealing with Iran.

Huawei has denied that loopholes exist, and much of the conjecture by the US and its Five Eyes allies seems to be stoked by fears about the loyalty the Chinese Communist Party demands of its companies rather than any solid evidence.

In Rome on Friday (25 January), China’s foreign minister Wang Yi described the actions of western governments against Huawei as “unfair” and “immoral”.

Independently certified

In a statement, the German telecoms giant said: “Deutsche Telekom takes the global debate on the security of network equipment from Chinese providers very seriously.”

Deutsche Telekom has proposed that critical telecoms infrastructure should be tested in an independent lab under state oversight to determine whether the claims are valid or groundless. It is calling for network equipment makers to submit the source code that runs their equipment to a third party for independent testing.

The German telco is currently trying to stave off a potential state ban on Huawei equipment as this could slow down its own 5G roll-out by two years. Rather than disrupt its roll-out based on US-inspired paranoia, it appears to be calling for reason and a civilised approach by testing to see if the claims are true or not before throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Germany may also be wishing to avoid getting sucked into any trade war with China as retaliatory embargoes against German goods would hit its industries hard.

The interjection by Deutsche Telekom – which is one-third state-owned in Germany – by providing independent certification could prove timely.

Huawei equipment is deployed in the core network of most broadband networks around Europe, and most homes have Huawei broadband routers. Not only that but Huawei has pipped Apple to become the world’s number two smartphone vendor by volume.

Which makes you ask – not unreasonably in light of a mounting US-China trade war – is the motivation for censuring Huawei driven by American angst that the pendulum of tech innovation is swinging inexorably towards Shenzhen and away from Silicon Valley?

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years