EU countries can restrict or ban high-risk 5G vendors from core parts of their telecoms networks, according to new EU guidelines announced on Wednesday.
The guidelines leave room for interpretation and don’t call for a de facto ban. The European Union stopped short of an outright ban of Chinese suppliers such as Huawei Technologies Co. from 5G contracts. The non-binding recommendations, agreed by the bloc’s 28 countries, seek to tackle cybersecurity risks at national and EU level, with concerns mainly focused on Huawei, although the guidelines do not identify any particular country or company.
The United States is worried that 5G dominance is a milestone towards Chinese technological supremacy that could define the geopolitics of the 21st century.
The U.S and the EU are also concerned about Chinese laws that require companies to assist in national intelligence work.
The guidelines call on EU countries to assess the risk profile of suppliers on a national or EU level and allow them to exclude high risk suppliers for the core infrastructure.
The policy document urges EU member states to apply ad hoc restrictions on merit for certain suppliers of key 5G components, including core, network management, access network, and orchestration functions.
EU governments are also advised to use several 5G providers rather than depend on one company. The providers should be assessed on technical and non-technical factors including the risk of interference by state-backed companies.
EU countries have until April to implement the guidelines by April and report on their progress by June.
U.S. officials have long urged European governments to exclude Huawei from all sections –- core and non-core -- of their networks, arguing it threatens their national security. The United States wants the bloc to ban Huawei on fears that its gear could be used by China for spying, allegations rejected by the company.
The EU is hoping a collective approach based on a checklist of technical and non-technical risks and targeted measures will take some of the U.S. pressure off.
Britain on Tuesday opted to allow Huawei to supply equipment for non-sensitive parts of its 5G network rather than bow to U.S. pressure and ban the company completely.