The U.S. government is reaching out to allies in countries such as Germany, Italy, and Japan to try to pressure the local wireless and internet providers to avoid using telecom equipment from Chinese manufacturer Huawei. According to a report in The Wall Street Journal citing unidentified sources, U.S. officials are concerned about security risks, particularly in countries where the U.S. has military bases.
The Journal said that while the Department of Defense has its own satellite networks for sensitive and classified communications, most of the traffic at military installations is carried by the local telecom provider. Sources that spoke with the Journal said that the U.S. government is even considering increasing financial aid for telecom development in countries that do not use equipment from Huawei.
The government’s decision to get involved in the equipment purchases made by telecom companies in other countries comes at a time when many network operators are preparing to upgrade their networks to 5G. This transformation will include purchasing new hardware and software from companies like Huawei, Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung.
5G is a potential game-changer because it not only promises faster connections but also makes it possible for all types of devices — from automobiles to health care devices — to be connected to a mobile network. But all this connectivity makes government officials concerned about the potential for threats to the telecom infrastructure.
Huawei has been facing a lot of heat from the U.S. government. In April, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed a ban on the use of money from its $8.5 billion Universal Service Fund to purchase equipment that the company believes poses a national security threat to the U.S. communications networks. In August, the Australian government banned Huawei and ZTE from providing 5G equipment to that country’s telecom providers due to security concerns. And earlier this month Reuters reported that Germany was considering a similar ban.