Germany weighs curbs on Huawei, sparking telco backlash

Reading Time: 4 minutes

  • Interior ministry wants telcos to slash use of Huawei, ZTE
  • Deutsche Telekom says deadline unrealistic, could hit service
  • Plan to be presented to cabinet from next week

By Andreas Rinke and Sarah Marsh

BERLIN, Sept 20 (Reuters) – Germany’s interior ministry is planning to force telecoms operators to slash their use of equipment from China’s Huawei and ZTE, a government official said, prompting an angry response from operators who warned of likely disruption and legal action.

The ministry wants to impose the changes to 5G networks after a review highlighted Germany’s reliance on the two Chinese suppliers, as Berlin reassesses its relationship with a country it dubs both a partner and a systemic rival.

The ministry has designed a staggered approach to try to avoid too much disruption as operators remove all critical components from Chinese vendors in their 5G core networks by 2026, the official said.

The operators should also reduce the share of Chinese components in their RAN and transport networks by Oct. 1, 2026, to a maximum of 25%, said the official, who declined to be named.

Operators swiftly criticised the proposals, while Huawei Germany rejected what it called the “politicisation” of cyber security in the country.

“Such an approach will have a negative impact on the digital transformation in Germany, inhibit innovation and significantly increase construction and operating costs for network operators,” it said in a statement. “As a result, German consumers will have to pay the additional costs.”

Deutsche Telekom called the 2026 deadline unrealistic, comparing it to Britain’s drawn-out attempts to impose restrictions on Huawei , and warned of a possible drop in the quality of service to customers.

Telefonica Deutschland said it would consider seeking damages from the German government as well as legal action.


Huawei currently accounts for 59% of Germany’s 5G RAN networks, according to a survey by telecommunications consultancy Strand Consult.

In especially sensitive regions like the capital Berlin, home of the federal government, Chinese tech should not be used at all, the official said – a distinction that Stand Consult said was “arbitrary”.

“It is not logical that only citizens and enterprises in major cities are prioritized for secure networks while the 79 million citizens in the rest of Germany are considered to live in safe or lower risk zones,” the firm said.

The interior ministry wants to present its approach to cabinet from next week but could face resistance from the ministry for digital affairs due to concerns it might affect Germany’s already slow progress with digitalization.

A spokesperson for the digital ministry said no decision had been made yet, adding it was important to ensure that access to mobile internet remained stable, quick and affordable.

Germany is considered a laggard in implementing the European Union’s toolbox of security measures for 5G networks. The measures were agreed three years ago to curb the use of vendors the bloc considers “high risk” – including Huawei and ZTE – due to concerns about possible sabotage or espionage. The two companies deny their equipment poses a security risk.

Last week, the government said in response to a parliamentary enquiry that it had so far not forbidden the use of any new Chinese critical components in 5G networks.

“It is incomprehensible that (Interior Minister Nancy) Faeser allows Huawei components to still be used in our mobile networks,” said Reinhard Brandl, spokesperson for digital policy for the parliamentary grouping of the opposition conservatives.

The interior ministry and Chinese embassy did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

Germany’s use of Huawei in particular has come under public scrutiny over the past two years given the government’s tougher stance on China and quest to reduce its dependence on individual countries in light of the energy crisis prompted by German reliance on Russian gas.

The interior ministry has come to the conclusion that there is an “urgent need” to act to avoid a second Nord Stream, the official said, referring to pipelines meant to bring cheap Russian gas to Germany but which are no longer in use.

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