18 July 2019
Huawei has repeatedly denied allegations that its equipment could be used by Chinese authorities for espionage. Photo: Bloomberg
Huawei has repeatedly denied allegations that its equipment could be used by Chinese authorities for espionage. Photo: Bloomberg

US to press allies to keep Huawei out of 5G: report

The United States will push its allies at a meeting in Prague next month to adopt shared security and policy measures that will make it more difficult for China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd to dominate 5G telecommunications networks, Reuters reports, citing people familiar with the matter and documents it has seen.

The event and broader US campaign to limit the role of Chinese telecommunications firms in building 5G networks comes as Western governments grapple with the national security implications of moving to 5G, which promises to be at least 100 times faster than the current 4G networks.

The issue is crucial because of 5G’s leading role in internet-connected products ranging from self-driving cars and smart cities to augmented reality and artificial intelligence.

If the underlying technology for 5G connectivity is vulnerable then it could allow hackers to exploit such products to spy or disrupt them.

Washington has been meeting with allies in recent months to warn them that Huawei’s equipment could be used by the Chinese state to spy. Huawei has repeatedly denied the allegations.

Officials from more than 30 countries will meet May 2-3 to agree on security principles for next-generation telecoms networks, said Robert Kahofer, chief of cabinet at Czech cybersecurity agency NUKIB.

A US official familiar with the plan said the Prague meeting marks a strategic shift in how the US government plans to urge allies to drop Huawei and other 5G vendors in the future, which Washington believes pose a risk to national security. The official described the approach as “softer”.

US proposals for the Prague meeting urge governments and operators to consider the legal environment in a vendor’s country, how much state support a company receives, transparency of corporate structure, and trustworthiness of equipment.

It also calls on partners to prioritize security and work together on investigations into cyber attacks aimed at 5G architecture.

The documents do not mention Huawei, the world’s largest telecoms equipment maker, by name, but US officials said they hoped it would provide the “intellectual framework” needed for other countries to effectively bar Chinese vendors.

In August, US President Donald Trump signed a bill that barred the US government itself from using Huawei and ZTE Corp equipment.

“The goal is to agree upon a set of shared principles that would ensure the security of next-generation telecommunications networks,” said one of the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

The Prague conference has been organized by the Czech foreign ministry with support from NUKIB, said Kahofer. The foreign ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

Delegations from all of the European Union’s 28 member states, as well as the European Commission, NATO and around eight other countries including the US and Australia are expected to attend, Kahofer said.

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