A group representing top US mobile service providers disagreed with European and Asian counterparts over alleged security threats from Chinese equipment maker Huawei Technologies Co. ahead of a conference that will highlight a US-Europe divide on the issue.
A February 14 release from GSMA, a London-based wireless industry group, urged European lawmakers not to ban Huawei as a supplier. But CTIA, a Washington-based group, responded with its own statement saying the GSMA “does not represent the views of all wireless operators or all regions.”
The divergent statements underscore a fissure opening between Washington and carriers and regulators around the world, who’re starting to re-evaluate US warnings that China’s largest technology corporation aids Beijing in espionage. This week, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern left the door open for Huawei to play a role in the rollout of next-generation networks, while a senior Italian government official dismissed the issue.
European carriers offered to cooperate with their governments in devising steps to ward off vulnerabilities.
CTIA, with members that include US market leaders AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., has urged US regulators to go slow in crafting rules on equipment security.
“It looks like they’re scared of the impact of European policy-making on the rollout of their 5G networks” that will offer advanced speeds, said Gigi Sohn, a fellow at the Georgetown University Law Center Institute for Technology Law and Policy, said of the US group. “It seems they’re concerned that if Europe does so, it would become the de facto standard.”
Beyond US-Chinese bickering, economics plays an important role in what gear goes into future 5G networks, the advent of which are expected to galvanize everything from smart cities and self-driving cars to fully automated homes.
Huawei’s technology is considered on par with the likes of Ericsson or Nokia’s, but more cost-effective. LG Uplus, the smallest of Korea’s carriers, is an open supporter and its patronage helped the country become the largest initial market for Huawei’s 5G equipment.
A GSMA spokesman in an emailed comment said its “initial statement was clearly focused on activity in Europe and does not reflect the views of all GSMA members globally.” The group says it represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide. The group lists AT&T and Verizon as members.
The US government is increasing the size of its usual delegation to the GSMA’s annual industry conference, MWC Barcelona, to be held next week. Huawei is also bolstering its presence at the event, setting the scene for a showdown as both sides try to win over the chief executives of the world’s biggest carriers.
The US and China clashed at a security conference in Munich over whether Huawei’s equipment should be banned from future 5G networks. US Vice President Mike Pence said the company is required to turn over data to Beijing’s security officials. Chinese politburo member Yang Jiechi was up next on the same stage, and said his country’s
law doesn’t require companies to collect intelligence. Yang urged Europeans to consider whether the US had their interests at heart, or its own.
Shenzhen-based Huawei has denied wrongdoing and long maintained it doesn’t provide back doors for the Chinese government, pointing out that no one has provided evidence to support such concerns.
CTIA didn’t specify what was objectionable in GSMA’s 800-word statement. “We can achieve our 5G ambitions with a secure global supply chain that reflects national security concerns,” the CTIA said. “We caution against a patchwork approach of different rules for different regions which would result in less competition in
GSMA on February 14 said “mobile operators are ready to work with European agencies in charge of promoting certification and security requirements.” It recommended that “governments and mobile operators work together to agree” on a testing and certification regime for Europe.
The FCC should “work with other expert agencies to conduct a thorough quantitative and qualitative analysis of the costs and benefits of various approaches before taking action” on network security, CTIA said last year in a filing at the agency. The FCC is considering whether to bar spending of
US subsidies on companies deemed a security risk. Jilane Rodgers Petrie, a spokeswoman for CTIA, didn’t return a telephone call and email.