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EU assessing security risks to 5G

It won't target Huawei but notes Chinese law requires domestic firms to collaborate with intelligence agencies

Huawei's smartphone sales has slumped in Europe last month after a US component supply ban on the Chinese manufacturer has threatened its access to crucial handset software.


THE European Union said that it may deem certain 5G suppliers a security risk, noting that Chinese law requires domestic companies to collaborate with intelligence agencies.

The EU will not target China's Huawei Technologies Co "from the outset", Security Commissioner Julian King told reporters last Friday. But he noted that Chinese national intelligence law "puts certain quite broad requirements on organisations or citizens to support or cooperate or collaborate with national intelligence work". He added: "It is indeed possible that we reach the conclusion that in some cases, some products, services and suppliers are deemed unsafe."

US President Donald Trump has advocated for a global ban on Huawei on security grounds, alarming European telecom operators who rely on the company's equipment to run networks. Excluding Huawei and ZTE Corp from the next generation of mobile networks would burden European phone companies with 55 billion euros (S$84 billion) in extra costs and delay the 5G roll-out, the wireless industry's main lobby group GSMA said last month.

"There's a lot of debate about Huawei," Mr King said. "It's not because we're obsessing about China. We're trying to develop a risk assessment across this market", and major suppliers will feature in the discussion.

While individual European governments are free to block a 5G supplier over security concerns, Mr King said that he hoped they would rely on a risk assessment that he is putting together by Oct 1, based on information from all EU members.

"Huawei welcomes the fact-based approach that the EU plans to take in reviewing the national risk assessments of 5G network infrastructure," the company said in a statement. "It is now more important than ever to develop a common approach to cyber security."

The EU is relatively powerless to force its member states to abide by its recommendations, but Mr King said that the report should help them "reach a view on whether particular products, services or suppliers are sufficiently safe" as states make decisions on high-speed 5G spectrum auctions and network deployment, he told a Brussels press conference.

While outright bans on Huawei appear unlikely in Europe - the region that it relies on most for growth outside China - countries such as Germany, France and Britain have signalled more limited restrictions and tighter oversight of their networks.

Huawei's European smartphone sales slumped last month, according to market research firm Kantar, after a US component supply ban on the Chinese manufacturer threatened its access to crucial handset software. BLOOMBERG