At least three U.S. officials have publicly made comments in recent weeks about the risks of using Chinas Huawei Technologies for 5G infrastructure, with the latest coming from a senior U.S. diplomat who voiced concerns about European countries using the technology.
Robert Strayer, deputy assistant secretary for cyber, international communications, and information policy at the State Department, said the United States is encouraging European countries to think carefully about the security and economic implications of rushing forward with using Huaweis technology.
“There is no way to fully mitigate any type of risk except the use of trusted vendors from democratic countries,” Strayer told reporters on a visit to Lisbon, Portugal.
Strayer also said it was “necessary to demystify” the notion that Huawei is more advanced in 5G. Huawei was founded in 1987 by a former Peoples Liberation Army engineer and Washington has repeatedly asked allies to not use Huaweis technology over fears it would help China steal secrets from and spy on the West. Huawei and Beijing have both denied the accusations.
“The good news is Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung all provide 5G technology that is on par with the one Huawei is providing today,” Strayer said. “They are leading the world in the type of technology they have.”
Strayers comments echo those made earlier this month by Attorney General William Barr, who said there were only two companies that can properly compete with Huawei as 5G infrastructure suppliers: Nokia and Ericsson.
“They have quality, reliable products that can guarantee performance,” Barr said at a Keynote Address at the Department of Justices China Initiative Conference. “They have proven successful in managing customers migration from 4G to 5G.”
Barr said the main concern was that the two suppliers dont have enough resources or backing behind them to match Huaweis scale. He suggested the United States use its resources to back one or both of the firms, adding that it would “make it a more formidable competitor and eliminate concerns over its staying power.”
“We and our closest allies certainly need to be actively considering this approach,” he said.
Huawei says it spent $15 billion last year on research to help it achieve market leadership and has said the United States wants to frustrate its growth because no U.S. company could offer the same range of technology at a competitive price.
Strayer said Western vendors such as Ericsson and Nokia will use an open architecture with more functionality, creating opportunities for companies in the United States and Europe to provide compatible equipment.