US officials have increased their criticism of allies who are “opening their arms” to 5G equipment from Chinese vendors.
On Thursday, US chief technology officer Micheal Kratsios spoke at a tech conference in Lisbon. Kratsios reiterated America’s stance that Chinese firms cannot be trusted as they’re compelled to cooperate with Beijing’s intelligence services.
Chinese telecoms vendor Huawei is one of the few suppliers used in global networks. The vendor has built a reputation for innovative and cost-effective gear.
Kratsios singled-out Huawei in his speech and told Europe to “take a stand” with the US, which earlier this year increased export controls on Huawei.
“We may not see eye-to-eye on every aspect of technology policy, but we all agree on the principles that matter most,” said Kratsios.
Last month, a German spy chief warned about involving Huawei in 5G networks. Bruno Kahl, head of Germany’s foreign intelligence, told a parliamentary committee that “infrastructure is not a suitable area for a group that cannot be trusted fully.”
The UK is yet to make a decision on whether to continue allowing Huawei equipment to be used in 5G networks but, as Telecoms reported earlier this year, all of the country’s major operators are using the vendor’s equipment to some extent.
“We’ve already started to deploy equipment for when we launch 5G in the second half of the year,” said Three CEO David Dyson. “So if we had to change vendor now, we would take a big step backwards and probably cause a delay of 12 to 18 months.”
Speaking to Sky News in August, Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei said the UK “won’t say no to us” in the rollout of 5G while simultaneously praising new PM Boris Johnson as a “very decisive” and “very capable” person. Zhengfei added the UK could become “a huge industrial power” by focusing on AI and genetics.
However, comments made by US national security advisor John Bolton during a visit to the UK suggested Zhengei’s confidence may be misplaced.
“They [UK officials] said, in particular, they are looking really from square one on the Huawei issue. They were very concerned about not having any compromise in the security of telecommunications in the 5G space,” Mr Bolton told reporters.
A string of allegations
Huawei maintains Beijing has no control over its operations but a string of allegations hasn’t helped the company’s case.
In his speech, Kratsios mentioned claims published by Le Monde last year that data was transferred at questionable hours from the African Union’s headquarters to China for five years using Huawei equipment.
Huawei has called Kratsios’ comments “hypocritical and manifestly false”.
Earlier this week, FCC chairman Ajit Pai spent a good portion of his speech at the non-profit think-tank Council of Foreign Relations warning about the threat posed by Huawei and its links to China’s communist regime.
“China could compel Huawei to spy on foreign individuals and businesses and prevent Huawei from disclosing such surveillance requests,” Pai said.
“You don’t have to look hard to find evidence that the Chinese government is willing and able to use its growing influence over global commerce to advance its own interests.”
Pai also referenced a report from cybersecurity firm Finite State that found a majority of the Huawei firmware images they analysed “had at least one potential backdoor.”
Earlier this year, the US Justice Department charged Huawei with stealing trade secrets from T-Mobile. In May, the US Commerce department added Huawei and 70 of its affiliates to its “entity list” which bans any American company from dealing with it without explicit government approval.
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