Technology & Science

EU stops short of recommending full ban on Huawei from 5G network

The European Union unveiled security guidelines for next generation high-speed wireless networks that stop short of banning Huawei, in the latest setback for the U.S. campaign against the Chinese tech company.

Chinese company blocked only from 'critical and sensitive' infrastructure

The EU's new security guidelines for the new high-speed networks do not ban Huawei, but prevent the company from supplying critical or sensitive infrastructure. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

The European Union unveiled security guidelines for next generation high-speed wireless networks that stop short of banning Huawei, in the latest setback for the United States' campaign against the Chinese tech company.

The EU's executive Commission on Wednesday outlined a set of strategic and technical measures aimed at reducing cybersecurity risks from fifth-generation, or 5G, mobile networks. The recommendations include blocking high-risk equipment suppliers from "critical and sensitive" parts of the network, including the core, which keeps track of data and authenticates smartphones on the network.

No companies were mentioned by name but the term "high risk" supplier was an obvious reference to Huawei, the world's top maker of networking gear such as switches and antennas.

The U.S. has been lobbying European allies to ban Huawei, over concerns it could be compelled to help with electronic eavesdropping after Beijing enacted a 2017 national intelligence law. U.S. officials have repeatedly warned they would have to reconsider intelligence sharing with allies that use Huawei. The company has denied the allegations.

Canada has not yet made its decision on whether to allow the Chinese telecom manufacturer into Canadian 5G systems. 

Similar to U.K. decision

The measures are similar to those taken a day earlier by Britain, which also opted not to introduce an outright ban on Huawei, instead prohibiting it from supplying equipment used in the core, while limiting its role supplying antennas and base stations for the less sensitive "radio access network."

The EU's security stance appeared to be a little looser than Britain's, because it didn't mention any restrictions on high-risk companies supplying radio equipment.

New 5G networks are expected to drive the next wave of innovation, transmitting massive amounts of data at super-fast speeds from more objects and locations. They would, for example, help make possible "smart" robotic factories.

"As many critical services will depend on 5G, ensuring the security of our networks is of high strategic importance for the entire European Union," the EU's executive vice president overseeing digital strategy, Margrethe Vestager, said at a press briefing in Brussels.

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The recommendations are "based on an objective assessment of risks and a balanced set of possible measures," Vestager said. "They apply across the board and do not target any specific country or company."

The Commission wants EU member countries to implement the guidelines by April 30.

Huawei said it welcomed the EU decision.

"This non-biased and fact-based approach towards 5G security allows Europe to have a more secure and faster 5G network," the company said, adding it has been operating in Europe for nearly two decades and has a "proven track record" in security.

The EU recommendations also include tightening security requirements for wireless companies and making sure they have a strategy to buy gear from more than one supplier.

Europe is poised to start rolling out 5G, with wireless companies expected to launch service in 138 cities across the bloc by the end of the year.

With files from Thomas Daigle

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