Germany Launches 5G Auction Amid Row With US Over Huawei

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Germany launched its auction Tuesday for the construction of an ultra-fast 5G mobile network as a transatlantic dispute rages over security concerns surrounding giant Chinese telecoms equipment maker Huawei.

The United States has warned it could scale back the sharing of sensitive information with Berlin if it does not exclude hardware made by Huawei from the infrastructure, arguing that Chinese equipment could help Beijing spy on Western companies and governments.

On Tuesday, Angela Merkel ruled out blocking Huawei from Germany’s 5G network, but said stringent telecommunications laws will be drafted. “So far, lots of countries have used Huawei technology,” said Germany’s chancellor at a conference in Berlin.

“That’s why the federal government has not taken the approach of simply ruling out any contractor or stakeholder, but we have set standards for those bidding for 5G technology.

“We will also write these standards legally into our telecommunications laws… We will give everyone a chance, but shouldn’t be naive, instead we see that there are very different laws in China.”

‘5G’ — ‘fifth generation’ — is the latest, high-speed generation of cellular mobile communications and Berlin will require winning bidders to offer the service to at least 98 percent of German households and along motorways and rail lines.

Slow internet in Europe’s engine
Germany, Europe’s biggest economy whose wireless networks however rank only 46th in the world for download speeds, wants to close the sizeable digital gap by making the shift to the ultra-fast 5G system.

Four operators are in the running to secure the 41 different frequency blocks up for grab in the auction.

Among the contenders are Germany’s three main mobile network providers — Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Telefonica Germany (O2) — plus United Internet (1&1), a German company specialising in internet services.

Huawei is not one of the bidders but provides the four hopefuls with essential hardware such as antennas and routers.

Jochen Homann, chairman of the German Federal Network Agency (BNA), says excluding Huawei’s equipment would present significant problems for the auction winners.

“Huawei is an important supplier, already present in our previous networks — it will be difficult to do without such companies and this is not at all what we want,” Homann told German public broadcaster ARD.

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