The German federal government is reportedly planning to ban operators from using kit from Chinese manufacturers Huawei and ZTE.

According to Zeit Online, which heard the news from ‘government circles’, the ban would affect components that have already been installed by German operators as well as future deployments.

The Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) and the Federal Ministry of the Interior are the government departments that have been looking into this for months, we’re told, with a mission to ascertain whether components running the country’s 5G network ‘could endanger German security.’

“The authorities are concerned that suppliers from countries such as China are controlled by their governments and that they could have direct or indirect access to German mobile networks. This test has not yet been officially completed, but the result is now apparently certain,” says the report.

The security authorities apparently are considering both the presence of ‘backdoors’ in the kit which might somehow ‘give foreign secret services access to German communication channels’, but also the possibility that a ‘foreign power’ (China, presumably) could exert political pressure by switching off components or withholding spare parts, disrupting the mobile network.

However the report goes on to note: “According to the government agencies, the BSI did not find any concrete technical indications that back doors are hidden in Chinese components. But there are serious indications that manufacturers like Huawei and ZTE are controlled by the Chinese government.”

In this sense, it seems to be the same reasoning that led to bans in the UK and US – it’s not so much that there has been evidence of a plot, but a concern that the relationship between the Chinese Communist Party and any Chinese company is such that were the government to demand to see into Huawei’s or ZTE’s databases then they would be compelled to do so.

Of course all this is tied up with the geopolitics, specifically degrading relations between the US and China – however the interesting thing is that Germany appeared to be going a different way with all this when ZTE last month said its 5G new radio (NR) gNodeB product has been approved under Germany’s NESAS (network equipment security assurance scheme) certification programme.

“The accomplishment of this certification demonstrates to the fullest extent that ZTE’s product security governance and 5G NR product have complied with the stringent security requirements of Germany,” said ZTE, in a statement at the time.

Whatever the details in this case, it can be seen in the context of the US ramping up efforts to keep Huawei equipment out of the US, and more of its allies seem to be following suit.

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