Germans raise China alarm ahead of 5G auctions

BERLIN • Senior German officials are planning a last-ditch drive to convince the government to consider excluding Chinese firms such as Huawei from building the country's 5G infrastructure amid concerns it could compromise national security.

The behind-the-scenes push in Berlin, which comes after decisions by Australia and the US to ban Chinese suppliers from 5G, has emerged at a late stage, with Germany expected to start its 5G auctions in early 2019.

Because of this momentum, officials, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said it was unclear whether the initiative would succeed.

But Germany's federal network regulator said it has no plans to change the timetable for the planned auction of 5G mobile spectrum.

"I see no reason to question the timetable," its president Jochen Homann told Reuters yesterday, but added that nothing could be ruled out entirely.

Commenting on concerns over Chinese firms playing a role in building the country's 5G infrastructure, Mr Homann said he saw no possibility for certain companies to be excluded from the auction.

But the push by the senior German officials highlights the extent of the concern in some Berlin ministries about a Chinese role in building Germany's next generation mobile network, despite the lack of a vigorous public debate here about the security dimensions of 5G.

 
 

"There is serious concern. If it were up to me, we would do what the Australians are doing," one senior German official involved in the internal 5G debate in Berlin told Reuters.

Leading the charge are officials in the German foreign and interior ministries, who have held talks with their US and Australian counterparts and share their concerns about the risks of using Chinese suppliers like Huawei, the world's largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer.

They are pressing for a more serious discussion on 5G before the auction process begins, the senior official said. Some officials suggested this could lead to a delay.

Opposition parties are also pushing back. Last week, the Greens submitted a motion in Parliament that questioned the government stance that it has no legal basis for excluding certain suppliers from its 5G rollout.

Responding to the Reuters story, a Huawei spokesman said the company rejected any suggestion that it might pose a threat to national security.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 15, 2018, with the headline 'Germans raise China alarm ahead of 5G auctions'. Print Edition | Subscribe