EU: Security concerns won't delay 5G

EU flag in front of building

The creation of tougher security policies to govern the development of 5G, including a potential ban on the use of Huawei equipment, won't lead to a slower rollout of the technology.

That's according to Thierry Breton, the EU Commissioner for internal market, who used a speech at the DLD conference to call for strict security with next-gen networks and to push back against claims that using European companies over Huawei would delay the rollout of 5G.

Breton suggested Europe was open to using Chinese technology, but said everyone must meet security requirements that would be available by the end of January. “Everybody is welcome in Europe, but more and more we will issue clear rules — and everybody will have to fulfill all these rules," he said. “Any company, European or not, will be welcome provided of course that they abide by our European rules. We will not build a European fortress.”

Such security won't delay work on the next-gen network, he added, answering criticism from German politicians.“Setting up strict security conditions will not create delays in the roll out of 5G in Europe,” Breton said, according to Reuters. "Europe, including Germany, of course, is on track. We are not, and won’t be, late in Europe on the deployment of 5G.”

The reference to Germany, and the wider defense of the 5G rollout timeline, was seen as a rebuff of comments made by Horst Seehofer, the German interior minister, who claimed that cutting Huawei out of European 5G networks would delay the work by as much as a decade. The issue has become political in Germany, which is currently debating whether to ban Huawei from its networks.

The US has put pressure on Western allies to eschew Chinese-based Huawei in favour of local companies, saying it's a security risk to use a Chinese company at the core of networks, where a backdoor or other access could be installed surreptitiously.

Huawei has said it was open to sharing its technology with US companies so they could build their own versions. The US government is pushing home-grown tech companies to develop their own 5G-capable infrastructure, while Europe is looking to Nokia and Ericsson to fill the gap.

The EU debate continues following a visit from US officials to the UK in the hopes of convincing PM Boris Johnson's government to ban Huawei from British networks on the grounds that it's "madness" to give a Chinese government such a key role in important communications technology.

Johnson suggested he was frustrated by the lack of alternatives to Huawei put forward by the US, though has suggested the UK would side with the US on the issue. However, industry leaders Vodafone and BT have reportedly said they may write to Johnson to say there's no evidence that a total ban of Huawei is necessary.

Both companies already use Huawei's equipment in their networks, though BT has started to remove some Huawei equipment from its 4G network.