France to toughen 5G telco equipment access

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on January 29, 2019.
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PARIS: The French government is preparing to toughen access for equipment makers to its future fifth-generation (5G) telecommunications networks.

The government is readying an amendment to the appropriate law with a view to make the vetting process for the equipment more stringent and increase the oversight of suppliers and locations by the concerned authorities, according to its finance ministry.

The new rules were added to an existing economic Bill last Friday and sent to the Senate for a vote. The French government says the extra checks, which are to ensure the security of its 5G network, do not target China’s Huawei, a global manufacturer of the new technology.

The US has been urging its allies to avoid using Huawei’s equipment for fear it can be used in spying, something the company has repeatedly denied.

“It’s perfectly understandable that the government is concerned about questions of national security in its mobile network,” Didier Casas, the president of Federation Francaise des Telecoms, told Bloomberg.

Casas said carriers want to make sure the new regulations will keep allowing them to benefit from a real and effective competition between equipment providers so as to get the best tariffs and technology available.

A French finance ministry official briefed reporters on the amendment, asking not to be identified in line with the ministry’s ground rules.

The government’s briefing follows strong and candid comments from one of France’s most senior cabinet members. In the Senate on Jan 23, Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian mentioned the “risks” of including Huawei in 5G network’s equipment. — Bloomberg