Telecoms industry calls for Europe-wide network testing
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[February 15, 2019]
By Douglas Busvine
FRANKFURT (Reuters) - The telecoms industry
has called on European governments to join mobile operators in
establishing a testing regime to protect network security without having
to resort to the disruptive step of excluding vendors from the market.
The initiative by the GSMA, which represents 800 operators worldwide,
comes as the United States steps up pressure on its allies to ban
China's Huawei on national security grounds.
Operators warn that such a step would disrupt the supply of equipment,
increase costs to them and their customers, delay the rollout of
next-generation 5G services by years, and potentially hobble existing
"Such significant consequences, intended or not, are entirely
avoidable," the GSMA said in a statement issued just over two weeks
before it hosts its annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
The industry fest, to be attended by more than 100,000 visitors, is also
expected to feature a closed-doors discussion of telecoms CEOs of the
risks to the industry that would arise if governments ban Huawei,
Huawei, an associate member of the GSMA, is traditionally one of the
biggest exhibitors in Barcelona. The global market leader in networks
and number two in smartphones is expected to launch a new handset on the
eve of the event.
The GSMA said it was assembling a task force of European operators to
identify ways to enhance existing testing regimes run by individual
operators, by third-party laboratories or in partnership with 3GPP, the
5G standardization body.
It recommended that governments and mobile operators work together to
agree on an assurance and testing regime for Europe "so that it ensures
confidence in network security while maintaining competition in the
supply of network equipment."
Responding, Huawei said: "We are committed to working globally with
everyone involved in network security: partners, suppliers, regulators
and governments, to find the best way to ensure the security, safety and
privacy of data."
The initiative parallels similar calls by Europe's largest mobile
operator, Deutsche Telekom, to strengthen Germany's testing and
compliance regime without having to resort to a blanket ban on Chinese
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GSMA flags fly at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona February
27, 2015. REUTERS/Albert Gea/File Photo
Deutsche Telekom said: "We welcome this move and think it’s good that the GSMA
was able to find a common position." Spain's Telefonica said the GSMA's stance
fully reflected its own position.
It marks the biggest step by the industry to avert a repeat of Australia's ban
on Huawei - the networks leader with a global market share of 28 percent -
following U.S. warnings that its equipment could come with 'back doors' that
would expose it to cyber espionage.
Washington has also argued that Chinese vendors are subject to a National
Intelligence Law that requires organizations and citizens to collaborate in
The European Union is considering proposals that would amount to a de facto ban
on Huawei, senior officials say, adding to mounting international pressure on
the Shenzhen-based company.
Huawei has denied the U.S. claims, while European operators argue there is no
evidence to suggest that the Huawei equipment they use in their networks has
ever been used for nefarious ends.
There is a great deal at stake: The GSMA estimates that mobile operators will
invest between $300 billion and $500 billion by 2025 in the rollout of 5G
services in Europe that range from connected factories to super-fast broadband
"As European policy makers consider ways to further secure network
infrastructure, we urge them not to lose focus on all relevant policy objectives
– security, competition, innovation and consumer impact," the GSMA said.
"This requires a fact-based and risk-based approach."
(Additional reporting by Isla Binnie and Jack Stubbs; Editing by Mark Potter)
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