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Italian lawmakers urge government to consider Huawei 5G ban

They say concerns 'largely grounded', given Beijing's power to interfere in activities of Chinese companies

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An Italian parliamentary body has told the government to "very seriously" consider banning Huawei Technologies and other Chinese equipment suppliers from the country's fifth-generation mobile networks.

Milan

AN Italian parliamentary body has told the government to "very seriously" consider banning Huawei Technologies and other Chinese equipment suppliers from the country's fifth-generation mobile networks.

In a report concluding a year-long review, the intelligence and security committee said concerns about using Chinese companies to install and maintain 5G networks in Italy were "largely grounded", given the Beijing government's power to interfere in their activities.

The review aimed to identify cybersecurity risks in national infrastructure and propose measures to address them. The committee's final report was sent to the Rome parliament on Dec 12. Some of the details were carried on Friday by newspapers La Stampa and Corriere della Sera.

European governments are weighing restrictions on Huawei over fears that its systems could be accessed by Chinese intelligence to spy on other countries or disrupt communications, something the company denies. With the US pressing its allies to ban Huawei from their networks, governments have delayed a final decision, knowing it could anger either Washington or Beijing.

In explaining its concerns, the intelligence committee also cited past security vulnerabilities identified in equipment supplied by Huawei in Italy.

Responding to the report, Huawei said it is open to cooperate with all government entities and to provide all necessary guarantees to allow operators to rapidly deploy 5G.

"Huawei has always emphasised that the cybersecurity debate should be based on facts and asked that the accusations against the company be proven," the Shenzhen-based supplier said in a statement. "So far, no evidence has been provided." It said no Chinese law gives Beijing the authority to make telecom equipment providers install hidden backdoors or listening devices or to engage in behaviour that could compromise network security.

While the committee's advice is not binding, "it could significantly influence the government to impose possible restrictions on companies such as Huawei and ZTE", said Stefano Mele, a lawyer specialising in cybersecurity.

The committee's final report made clear that the need for an open economy in Italy "cannot take precedence over cybersecurity concerns". Mr Mele added.

ZTE said in a statement that it fully adheres to laws and regulations, including those of Italy. It said security was a top priority for the company and it welcomed independent reviews of its activities.

The committee's review was part of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte's broader effort to improve cybersecurity in Italy. A law passed in November sought to identify the parts of national infrastructure that will play a role in limiting security risks.

Representatives for Mr Conte and the economic development ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment. BLOOMBERG