German spy chief: Huawei 'cannot be trusted fully' in 5G networks

A German spy chief has warned about involving Huawei in 5G networks, reducing the beleaguered vendor's hopes of catching a break in Europe.

Bruno Kahl, head of Germany's foreign intelligence, made the warning to a parliamentary committee on Tuesday. “Infrastructure is not a suitable area for a group that cannot be trusted fully,” Kahl said.

Kahl does not believe Huawei should be ruled out from being involved in the 5G rollout entirely, but the vendor should be kept away from "core interests" of German networks.

The stance taken by Kahl echoes that of the UK, with the previous administration said to be leaning towards allowing Huawei equipment in "non-core" parts of national 5G networks. However, a committee that was due to meet this week to make a decision on Huawei's future in UK 5G networks – if any – has been delayed.

A UK government spokesperson said it had “been undertaking a thorough, evidence-based and hard-headed review of the 5G supply chain to ensure the secure and resilient rollout of 5G. We’ve been clear that the security and resilience of the UK’s telecoms networks is of paramount importance."

An outright ban of Huawei’s 5G equipment will be costly and may delay the rollout of the latest generation network in Europe. Many operators across the continent have already begun their buildouts using the vendor’s gear. A report from The Observer earlier this year found that all four of the UK’s major operators are using equipment from Huawei.

While there's been fierce debate among European capitals over whether Huawei poses a national security risk, the US has taken a firm line against the vendor and even threatened its allies to reduce intelligence cooperation with any country that uses its equipment.

Much of the pressure has been on the US' partners in the "Five Eyes" intelligence relationship; which also includes the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. However, Washington's ambassador to Berlin wrote a letter to the German government earlier this year warning that it too would face a scaling-back of security cooperation.

Huawei maintains that allegations it's controlled by Beijing are false.

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