The dispute over the correct handling of the controversial Chinese network supplier Huawei is entering a new round. The federal government has not yet decided whether to allow technology from China to expand 5G real-time mobile communications in Germany.
In contrast to the other network operators Vodafone and Telefónica, Deutsche Telekom initially wanted to wait and see. That seems to have changed.
Europe’s largest telecommunications company has informed the Federal Ministry of the Interior that it intends to intensify its cooperation with the Chinese technology group Huawei. Telekom reported that it would no longer adhere to its self-imposed “moratorium”, the Handelsblatt learned from government circles. The Interior Ministry is “critical” of the decision, as they say. A response to an inquiry with Telekom was still pending.
Telekom had actually declared that, given the coalition dispute over the security criteria for the new mobile communications standard, it did not want to conclude new contracts for the delivery of 5G components with Huawei.
The exchange of blows occurs at a special time. The 5G expansion in Germany is currently picking up speed. “We want to supply more than half of the population with 5G by the end of the year,” announced Telekom Germany chief Dirk Wössner. That would correspond to about 40 million people. Rival Vodafone had announced that it wanted to reach around ten million people with 5G by the end of the year.
So far, Telekom had only admitted to using existing framework contracts, installing remaining stocks and converting components already installed with software upgrades to 5G. With the termination of its procurement moratorium, Telekom now has significantly greater scope.
And the Bonn group is apparently determined to use them. As the Handelsblatt learned from industry circles, there should be a high-level conversation between the two companies these days. The topic: 5G expansion.
Violent criticism from Berlin
The close relationship between Telekom and Huawei triggers fierce criticism in Berlin. “Telekom has a role model function because it partly belongs to the federal government,” warned Nils Schmid, foreign policy spokesman for the SPD in the Bundestag. “The group management takes a high risk for its shareholders.”
If the government later refuses to approve Huawei components, Telekom will have to remove them at its own expense. “Telekom will not be able to rely on the protection of legitimate expectations, since the security criteria for the 5G network have been the subject of intense discussions in Parliament for months,” said Schmid. The Federal Government also takes this view. The legal regulations do not guarantee legitimate expectations, according to the Ministry of the Interior.
Christoph Bernstiel, rapporteur on cyber security for the Union group, said: “I warn telecommunications companies against taking advantage of the corona crisis to secretly create facts.” The past few weeks have shown “how much we already depend on Chinese deliveries today.” “. It would be “more than careless if we were to get into the next dependency with the 5G expansion sight”, Bernstiel warned.
The federal government has been arguing for more than a year about whether Huawei can get involved in the 5G expansion. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Federal Intelligence Service consider Chinese technology companies to be untrustworthy: the risk that the network infrastructure can be misused for espionage and sabotage is too great. Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU), on the other hand, considers the blanket exclusion of a provider to be wrong. The result is that the laws that are supposed to set the security regulations for the 5G network are still not available. The outbreak of the corona pandemic is now delaying departmental coordination even further. In view of the ongoing network expansion, green European politician Franziska Brantner demands: “The German government must send a clear signal to Telekom that the security and independence of our digital infrastructure must be guaranteed.”
In addition to mobile communications, landlines are also affected
However, the debate about Huawei goes beyond Telekom. The entire industry in Germany has increasingly installed technology from China in recent years. Huawei is considered the industry leader.
The telecommunications companies do not want to wait any longer. Because the debate about Huawei does not only extend to mobile communications. The technology from Asia is also used in broadband expansion. The VATM telecommunications association presented a study on broadband expansion in Germany on Wednesday. According to this, there should be around 4.8 million fiber optic connections in the building by June of this year. That is around 15 percent more than at the end of the previous year. Germany is lagging behind in European comparison.
VATM managing director Jürgen Grützner called for a faster pace of network expansion. However, he also pointed out that the debate over Huawei could also have an impact on broadband expansion. “All providers use suppliers from China – both in the fixed network and in mobile communications,” said Grützner. Huawei products in particular were characterized by high quality and a reasonable price in many cases.
In addition to the three established network operators Telekom, Vodafone and Telefónica, the newcomer 1 & 1 Drillisch also wants to set up a 5G network in Germany. Martin Witt is driving the project forward as 1 & 1 CEO. He emphasized that Chinese equipment suppliers are leaders in antenna technology.
“Unfortunately, Chinese suppliers are a year or two ahead of European suppliers,” said Witt, who is also the President of VATM. In addition to Huawei and ZTE from China, the European providers Ericsson and Nokia are also building corresponding technologies. According to Handelsblatt information, 1 & 1 is in discussion with equipment supplier ZTE, among others, to supply technology for the construction of the 5G network. However, decisions are currently difficult. As long as Berlin has not decided on a clear course in dealing with Chinese equipment suppliers, the industry is paralyzed.
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