Texas Judge rules for White House over Huawei

Huawei has faced a setback in its pursuit of legitimacy in the US. as a Texas District Court ruled against its lawsuit directed towards the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Judge Amos Mazzant of the US District Court in East Texas ruled that section 889 of the NDAA was valid and legal. Huawei had argued the clause, which effectively banned it and ZTE from working with any company receiving federal funding, was unconstitutional on the grounds it presumed guilt without a fair trial.

While a Huawei victory was hardly going to make an impression with the single-minded White House policy makers, this is a victory for the Government, seemingly validating its decision.

“Contracting with the federal government is a privilege, not a constitutionally guaranteed right – at least not as far as this court is aware,” Judge Mazzant said in the ruling, first reported by Reuters.

This is an interesting nuance which has been put forward by Judge Mazzant. Huawei has argued the clause banning service providers from spending federal money on Chinese equipment is unconstitutional, though Judge Mazzant has stated that the Government should have the right to control how its money is allocated and spent. The Act does not prevent Huawei from doing business in the US entirely, which keeps the Government on the right side of the line.

The lawsuit, which was filed in March 2019, stated that Congress was acting in violation of the US Constitution as it was denying the firm the right to bid on both Government and private sector contracts. Huawei suggested the Act was a Bill of Attainder, as it presumed guilt without trial. Under Article I Section 9 in federal law, and in state law under Article I Section 10, US Constitution forbids such actions.

For the US, this could add some momentum to the already existing propaganda campaign against China and seemingly all companies from China. This ruling could add buoyancy to the Simple Resolution which has recently been passed in the House of Representatives.

The resolution, which can be used to influence administrative actions and foreign policy, stated that the House of Representatives believed all Chinese countries were effectively under Government control, state-owned or private. Such a broad-brush approach to condemnation is a very dangerous and small-minded approach to take, though the anti-China rhetoric could be offered a new lease of live…

US outlines the North Korea cybersecurity threat

In a joint statement, US Government agencies have outlined the cybersecurity threats which have been attributed to North Korea.

With the days of James Bond espionage increasingly becoming a thing of the past, cyber criminals are becoming more common and organised. On one side of the coin, this could be private criminals, think of a digital Mafia, but state-sponsored campaigns and attacks are just as, if not more, common.

Russia and China might hit the headlines frequently, but North Korea is a long-time enemy of the US and it appears the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Department of Defense (DoD) hasn’t forgotten about it.

All state-sponsored cybersecurity activity tied to North Korea is code-named Hidden Cobra, and thus far, seven malware variants have been publicly announced.

  • Hoplight – proxy applications that mask traffic between the malware and the remote operators
  • Bistromath – performs simple XOR network encoding and are capable of many features including conducting system surveys, file upload/download, process and command execution, and monitoring the microphone, clipboard, and the screen.
  • Slickshoes – a Themida-packed dropper that decodes and drops a file “C:\Windows\Web\taskenc.exe” which is a Themida-packed beaconing implant
  • Hotcroissant – custom XOR network encoding and is capable of many features including conducting system surveys, file upload/download, process and command execution, and performing screen captures
  • Artfulpie – performs downloading and in-memory loading and execution of a DLL from a hardcoded url
  • Buffetline – sample uses PolarSSL for session authentication, but then utilizes a FakeTLS scheme for network encoding using a modified RC4 algorithm. It has the capability to download, upload, delete, and execute files; enable Windows CLI access; create and terminate processes; and perform target system enumeration
  • Crowdedflounder – a Themida packed 32-bit Windows executable, which is designed to unpack and execute a Remote Access Trojan (RAT) binary in memory

While the concept of a state-sponsored cyber attack is far from new, the frequency of these incidents are becoming much more common. And worryingly, these are only the incidents which the general public is made aware of.

In November, New Zealand’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) suggested that 38% of the incidents it had to respond to were most likely state-sponsored. These are only a small proportion of the total cyber incidents, though the NCSC is tasked with tackling the most serious. The Five Eyes intelligence alliance, of which New Zealand is a member, has attributed the WannaCry incident to North Korea and NotPetya to Russia in recent years.

Looking at December 2019 alone, the Center for Strategic and International Studies suggests there were attacks from a Chinese state-sponsored group on multiple nations, a Cambodian Government agency was targeted, login credentials from government agencies in 22 nations across North America, Europe, and Asia were stolen by unknown hackers, a suspected Vietnamese state-sponsored hacking group attacked BMW and Hyundai, while Russian government hackers targeted Ukrainian diplomats, officials, military officers, journalists, and non-governmental organizations in a spear phishing campaign.

State-sponsored cyber incidents are most certainly on the rise, but the worrying element of this trend is that no-one genuinely knows. The likelihood of being able to attribute these incidents back to a particular regime with absolute certainly, and free from political bias, is incredibly low.

Stop messing with our code – Google Project Zero

A Google Project Zero engineer has scolded Samsung, suggesting alterations to Android’s Linux kernel has actually made Galaxy devices more vulnerable.

While making some adjustments to Android code downstream is relatively common, rarely has Google come out in opposition. In a blog post, Jann Horn of Project Zero examined the modifications made by Samsung coming to the conclusion the firm would be better off using existing security features in the Android code.

“In my opinion, some of the custom features that Samsung added are unnecessary, and can be removed without any loss of value,” said Horn.

“That I was able to reuse an infoleak bug here that was fixed over a year ago shows, once again, that the way Android device branches are currently maintained is a security problem. While I have criticized some Linux distributions in the past for not taking patches from upstream in a timely manner, the current situation in the Android ecosystem is worse.

“Ideally, all vendors should move towards using, and frequently applying updates from, supported upstream kernels.”

In this example, Horn found a mistake in the code for the Samsung Galaxy A50. This is a single case, but as Horn states, it is very common for code to be added to the Android kernel code downstream for additional features.

In February, Samsung added an additional security features known as PROCA. Horn was able to figure out what PROCA does, perhaps limits the impact of threats already inside the security perimeters but suggests it would be more effective to add more attention to preventing access in the first place. Horn suggests this code does in fact create more issues than it does solve.

What is worth noting is that this is hardly surprising. Google wants Android to be seen as perfect. The less modifications made to Android code the more influential it becomes, so it will of course reprimand those who try to improve on what it classes as perfection. But then again, the Google engineers might have a point.

Many have tried to replicate the success of Android as a mobile operating system, including Samsung, but all have failed. Only Apple’s iOS is an alternative, though it is not a direct comparison considering only Apple uses it. If no-one is able to replicate the product, why should they be able to improve on it with their own modifications?

Huawei attacks US Government and Wall Street Journal credibility

Huawei has issued its retort to US accusations that it has access to telco networks, suggesting the US Government should be more mature than resorting to PR and propaganda campaigns.

“US allegations of Huawei using lawful interception are nothing but a smokescreen – they don’t adhere to any form of accepted logic in the cyber security domain,” the statement reads. “Huawei has never and will never covertly access telecom networks, nor do we have the capability to do so.”

Earlier this week, US officials briefed journalists at the Wall Street Journal regarding a technical loophole which granted Huawei access to telco networks around the work. Intended for law enforcement agencies, these backdoors offered opportunity for ‘Lawful Intercept’ activities when validated by the courts, though Huawei allegedly had access to these backdoors.

While it is a claim which certainly would have shocked a few people around the world, the story itself was a little bit suspect…

Firstly, if this is evidence of a smoking gun to prove espionage, why weren’t US officials showing this to the Governments of allied nations. Secondly, the US officials didn’t actually state that Huawei had done anything wrong. Third, it seemed unusual that only Huawei has access to these backdoors. And finally, if this is a situation which has been present since 2009, why are we only finding out about it now?

It would be foolish to completely disregard claims of espionage from the Chinese Government, but these statements from the US Government to the WSJ look more like a propaganda campaign, an offensive move to turn the tide of public opinion. If there was evidence, as the US officials suggest, surely it would be presented to other regulators and governments rather than a news outlet.

In its response to the allegations, Huawei has hit back suggesting the claims are nothing more than a rouse, the WSJ should have more credibility than to blindly follow such statements, its products are built to standards which make provisions for lawful intercept, and that it is an equipment manufacturer to the telcos.

The last point is an interesting one. Huawei manufacturers equipment which it sells to telcos, who then operate it behind security firewalls and systems. There would have to be some very sophisticated and nefarious software skills to embed such treacherous backdoors, and considering the damning reports the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) gave it in recent months, it seems like a long shot. Not impossible, but perhaps improbable.

At some point the telcos are going to have to put their hands up and say they aren’t that incompetent. Security is one of the most important roles in a telco nowadays, and to suggest Huawei has managed to dupe the telcos for all these years without a single sniff of suspicion, or at least someone accidentally bumping into a backdoor, is also quite unlikely.

If a network is breached or has played a role in international espionage, the telco which owns it has as much to lose as Huawei; how many subscribers or enterprise customers would it have left if this was the case? How many lawsuits would they open themselves up to if all these allegations could be proven true? Eventually, the telcos are going to have to say they aren’t idiots and know what they are doing to mitigate risk and uphold the security principles they preach.

US throws more mud at Huawei

US Government officials have been baiting the line of deceit for Huawei once again, this time half-accusing the vendor of maintaining backdoor entry to networks through its equipment.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, the officials have suggested Huawei has access to backdoors built into communications infrastructure equipment which were intended for law enforcement agencies. It is not entirely clear how these backdoors have been built, how they have remained secret for so long, or why Huawei is the only company which can access them, but this is apparently the evidence the US has been hinting at for so long.

While it might sound like a ludicrous idea, the US Government knows it is possible to build backdoors into communications infrastructure equipment because it has done so frequently in the past. In 2013, Edward Snowden came forward with evidence to prove the National Security Agency (NSA) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was spying on national and international citizens with zero accountability via products made by Cisco and Juniper Networks.

What is not entirely clear from the statements made from the US officials is whether Huawei is actually doing anything about it. The officials have told the WSJ that there are backdoors, and Huawei is aware of them, however, there is no assertion that any nefarious behaviour has been undertaken.

Huawei is yet to make comment on the matter for the moment, though the question remains whether it actually has to do so just yet. The US has been making these accusations for some time, and this might just be another twist on the argument. Until evidence of the backdoor is verified, or that Huawei actually spied on anyone at the behest of the Chinese Government, this is little more than another wave of US propaganda.

Although these claims are more specific than others which have been made in the past, it will be interesting to see whether it is validated by anyone else. European Governments have asked the US to present them with a smoking gun if they were to consider banning Huawei, and it has not done so yet. Presumably the US officials have approached counterparts in allied nations to coincide with this PR campaign through the WSJ, otherwise the credibility falls straight to the floor.

This might be one of the strongest accusations made by the US to date, but if European Governments are not taking action it is either because (a) the US officials have not presented this evidence to them, or (b) the evidence is not deemed sufficient to make a decision on banning the vendor. The coming days and weeks will fill in some of the blanks, but if no action is taken by European Governments, this should be chalked up as nothing more than a PR campaign to turn the tides of public opinion.

The US Government might be losing the battle to turn public opinion in Europe against Huawei, but that is because it has not yet presented anything aside from rhetoric and suspicion. And it is easy to understand why the US Government is so suspicious and worried over espionage from the Chinese Government, given its own rich history in the matter.

Germany set to follow UK on Huawei conundrum – report

Huawei looks to have survived another European scare as Germany closes in on a deal which would offer the company restricted freedoms, similar to the position of the UK.

According to reports in Reuters, the leading political parties in Germany are set to agree on a strategy paper which would allow Huawei a restricted role to participate in the deployment of 5G networks. It might be considered a bit of a snub to the US, but like the UK this would appear to be a pragmatic approach to delivering the next generation of connectivity.

“State actors with sufficient resources can infiltrate the network of any equipment maker,” the agreement states. “Even with comprehensive technical checks, security risks cannot be eliminated completely – they can at best be minimized.

“At the same time, we are not defenceless against attempts to eavesdrop on 5G networks. The use of strong cryptography and end-to-end encryption can secure confidentiality in communication and the exchange of data.”

Although this is not a confirmed position yet, it is believed the new position will be voted in later today (February 11). There are still aggressors who are pursuing an all-out ban, namely the Social Democratic party, a junior coalition partner to the Christian Democratic party, though it appear Huawei will survive, albeit in a limited function.

The paper would outline a similar approach to managing Huawei as the UK has taken. As you can see from the statement above, the German authorities seem to be taking the approach that as it is impossible to guarantee 100% safety, irrelevant of the equipment manufacturer, it is not logical to target one specific company.

The paper apparently states the network would be split into the three different components (radio, transmission and core), and different procedures for handling Huawei equipment dependent on its designation. This is a risk-management approach, similar to the one taken in the UK.

The issue which the Germans are facing is also similar; German telcos are all existing customers of Huawei and have signed agreements to work with Huawei going forward. Should a ban be implemented, not only would this create a problem in terms of time (negotiating new commercial agreements, testing equipment etc.) but there might also have to be expense incurred as ‘rip and replace’ projects are kicked off to ensure backwards compatibility.

In the UK, BT has said it will cost £500 million to become compliant with the Huawei restrictions in the RAN. This might sound like a significant investment, but it would have been considerably worse if a complete ban had been introduced.

Other elements of the strategy which could impact the telcos are potential demands to enforce a multi-vendor supply chain, and security checks on equipment which all vendors would have to adhere to. This is an idea which has been raised in the past, paying homage to the complexity and variety of supply chains nowadays; as 100% security cannot be guaranteed by everyone, every vendor would be forced to demonstrate security credibility.

It is not yet guaranteed that Germany will take this approach, but it does appear the German Government will try to mitigate risk and compensate for the current status quo.

Despite all the lobbying and threats which have been passed across the Atlantic from the White House, it does appear US delegates were unable to present evidence of a ‘smoking gun’ which would have turned European governments against Huawei and other Chinese vendors. This is a win for the US, it has demonstrated it has influence over Europe after all, but its ability to dictate policy is becoming weaker.

One question which does remain is the impact this will have on the German-US relationship. President Trump has not been on the greatest of terms with Merkel over the years and considering the influence Germany has on the European Union bureaucracy, the White House find itself more irritable.

On the other side of the coin is the relationship between Germany and China. China is an important trade partner of Germany, especially the automotive industry which has such a powerful lobby in the country. Irritating this relationship with the Chinese would not be something many would want, and it does appear a snub to the US is tolerable.

While the UK and Germany are only two nations, it does appear the US is losing the political influence game in Europe. Other European countries pay attention to the opinions and actions of these Governments, and it might be a case of the first dominoes to fall, especially with the likes of France and Italy also leaning towards a Huawei-friendly environment

Seems the White House is all bark and no bite on intel sharing

The UK was threatened with intelligence embargoes should it allow Huawei to operate in its 5G industry, but Downing Street has seemingly won that game of chicken with the White House.

As part of the US lobby efforts over the last few months, access to valuable security data and intelligence was put on the line. The US Government believed allowing Huawei to contribute components to the UK’s 5G networks would compromise its own national security. The threat was made, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the White House bluff. Now it seems the US delegation in London is moonwalking away from the intelligence sharing ban.

The White House has been surprisingly quiet on the UK’s Supply Chain Review conclusion. Either President Donald Trump has his hands full with the on-going impeachment enquiry, or perhaps this an embarrassing outcome, a sign the Special Relationship is not as powerful as some would have thought, and the White House is not as influential as it currently believes.

Speaking at an event in London, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has suggested intelligence sharing between the two countries would continue.

“That relationship is deep, it is strong, it will remain,” said Pompeo.

Pompeo has remained resolute in his belief Huawei is a threat to Western democracies, believing the firm to be in-effect the intelligence gathering arm of the Chinese Communist Party. The Secretary of State even suggested there would be an opportunity for the UK to reconsider its decision in the future.

Although Pompeo is now on his way to Kiev, Ukraine, yesterday saw meetings with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. The aim is to underline the commitment of both parties to the Special Relationship and work towards a trade deal. Pompeo has suggested a new deal between the US and UK could be on the table by November.

While the UK has made its position very clear, there is still plenty of work for Pompeo to do; the UK is just one European nation after all.

“Our view of Huawei has been that putting it in your system creates real risk,” Pompeo said to reporters before leaving the US on the 28th January. “This is an extension – an extension of the Chinese Communist Party with a legal requirement to hand over information to the Chinese Communist Party.

“We’ll evaluate what the United Kingdom did.  It’s a little unclear precisely what they’re going to permit and not permit, so we need to take a little bit of time to evaluate that.  But our view is that we should have Western systems with Western rules, and American information only should pass through trusted networks, and we’ll make sure we do that.”

This trip abroad will see Pompeo have meetings in Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, and while there will certainly be lobbying taking place, the Secretary of State will also be keeping a keen eye on developments across Europe.

Germany is yet to make a formal decision, while France and Spain have not shown enthusiasm for banning the Chinese vendor. The UK is an influential voice in the European political arena, despite the offence Brexit might be causing, and if it can avoid retaliation from the temperamental President it adds confidence others could too.

Ultimately it was always likely to be an empty threat from the White House. Intelligence sharing works both directions, as the US will use data from allies to build its own databases. If the US banned intelligence sharing with every country where Huawei was operational in 5G, it might find itself to be very lonely.

In the greater game of political chess, the US is losing. If it is not able to convince arguably its closest ally, the UK, to its own way of thinking it might not have much success elsewhere. Thanks to Brexit, the UK was in a difficult position after all. Some might have suggested the UK would appease the White House in pursuit of a valuable trade deal, but Prime Minister Johnson has more of a spine than some have given him credit for.

Looking across the continent, Belgium looks unlikely to enforce a ban, having found no evidence that telecoms equipment supplied by Huawei Technology could be used for spying. France’s cybersecurity agency has seemingly given Huawei the thumbs up. Germany is holding off from a decision until after the EU Summit in March, though a ban is unlikely. Hungary is pro-Huawei. Italy has passed legislation to safeguard networks, but allowing Huawei in.

The US has seen lobby efforts gain traction in some nations such as Japan and Australia, though it has not been able to exert the same influence in Europe. This would have been unthinkable a decade ago, but it does appear the European nations are inclined to ignore the huffing and puffing from the Oval Office nowadays.

Government claims UK cybersecurity sector is surging

Government figures suggest the UK cybersecurity sector is thriving, employing more than 43,000 individuals and estimated to be worth £8.3 billion.

With new regulations forcing companies to invest more in cybersecurity and consumers becoming increasingly aware of the dangers of the digital society, the conditions are right for the sector to thrive. As this is an area which has largely been ignored to date, this is an open opportunity for the aggressive to capture, and it seems the UK has been very successful in doing so.

“It’s great to see our cyber security sector going from strength to strength. It plays a vital role in protecting the country’s thriving digital economy and keeping people safe online,” said Digital Minister Matt Warman.

“We are committed to seeing it grow and are investing £1.9bn over five years through our National Cyber Security Strategy to make sure we lead the way in cyber innovation, develop and attract the best talent.”

Annual revenues for the sector are estimated to have grown 46% over the last two years to £8.3 billion, with the number of cybersecurity firms increasing by 44% to more than 1,200 at the end of 2019. The total number of full-time employees, 43%, has increased by 37% during the same period, with revenue-per-employee reaching an average of £193,500 a year.

Looking at the industry, demand for cybersecurity services is certainly on the rise. A recent report from IDC suggests worldwide spending on security-related hardware, software, and services will be $106.6 billion in 2019, an increase of 10.7% year-on-year. Managed security services, integration services, consulting services, and IT education and training, will see some of the biggest growth, though software, such as identity and digital trust products or security analytics, will also see a significant surge.

With new regulations threatening some very steep fines, GDPR punishments could be as much as €20 million or 3% of global revenues, attitudes are changing as wallets become threatened. For those who are aggressive and innovative enough, there are certainly profits to be made.

One question which some might ask is why the cybersecurity sector is thriving in the UK? There will of course be numerous contributing reasons, but a simple answer might be that the UK is an excellent incubator for start-ups and SMEs.

The UK is often cited as one of the most attractive nations for start-ups in Europe, but also worldwide. Various factors contribute to this image, such as access to a good workforce (both experienced and graduates), excellent transport links, the 6th largest economy in the world, good communications infrastructure and a thriving professional services industry. But in London, businesses have access to one of the worlds most prominent financial centres.

Roughly 30% of Europe’s venture capitalists are based in the UK, accounting for a significant amount of investment funds across the bloc. According to PitchBook, the UK and Ireland accounted for 44.4% of total European fundraising volume through to the end of the third quarter. This accessibility to cash is critical in the early days of a business.

The cybersecurity sector is one which is primed for disruption and start-ups could well find themselves scaling very quickly. Not only is there more regulatory pressure, such as GDPR, to enhance security, but the consumer is becoming increasingly aware of the risks posed by the digital economy. It might not be mainstream yet, but digital security might be factored into buying decisions in the future; businesses will have to invest in this underappreciated sector before too long.

US Senators demand answers from Pentagon for alleged Huawei reprieve

The US Department of Defense has reportedly vetoed plans to further disrupt the Huawei supply chain, seemingly paying attention to the ‘rule of unintended consequence’.

Over the course of the last 18 months, the US Government has effectively been using the economist version of guerrilla warfare to dilute the influence of Huawei and China on the global technology industry. Success has been debatable, though the plan certainly worked on ZTE, and now three US Senators are questioning why the Pentagon has reportedly blocked plans to ramp efforts.

“We write regarding recent public reports that the Defense Department objected to a proposed change to Commerce Department regulations that would have made it more difficult for U.S. companies to sell to Huawei from their overseas facilities,” the Senators wrote.

“Given the national security risks surrounding Huawei’s technology and operations, concerns which resulted in the addition of Huawei and its affiliates to the Department of Commerce’s Entity List in May 2019, we respectfully ask for a member-level briefing on the Department’s rationale for its reported objection.”

Senators Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Marco Rubio of Florida, the authors of the letter, are all incredibly vocal leaders of the US aggression towards China. Sasse has been particularly active surrounding the on-going conflict in Hong Kong, while Cotton authored the Bill which would ban US intelligence sharing with Huawei friendlies, and Rubio has attempted to use legislation to extinguish the hope of any exemptions to the Entity List.

The latest twist in this saga concerns efforts from the US Commerce Department to further impact the Huawei supply chain. As it stands, US suppliers can work with other Huawei suppliers, as long as US components do not make up more than 25% of the product. The new rules would see this number reduced to 10%, potentially spelling disaster for the Huawei supply chain.

But it seems the Department of Defense are taking a much wider view of the move than the Department of Commerce. The Pentagon is worried about how this ban would impact sales for US businesses, potential job losses and the sums which can be redirected towards R&D to ensure the US technology industry remains cutting edge.

This is potentially the ‘law of unintended consequence’ in action. Although there is no official confirmation from the Pentagon that it did indeed block the Department of Commerce, the Senators are attempting to bring the saga into the public domain.

What has largely been ignored to date is the impact of the Huawei offensive on the fortunes of US businesses. In the immediate aftermath of Huawei entry onto the Entity List, the share price of several companies was hit hard. Micron Technologies was one such firm, and in a recent earnings call, quarterly revenue were reported down 43% year-on-year. Qualcomm, Xilinx, Skyworks Solutions, Qorvo and Neophotonics are only a few of the companies who have skin in the game.

The US strategy to combat Huawei is seemingly having more of an impact on US firms than it is the intended target. It might seem like an unpopular move to block increased aggression against the Chinese vendor, but it might will be the most logical decision.

There are a couple of points worth considering. Firstly, what impact is the strategy having on US companies. Secondly, what impact is the strategy having on Huawei. And, what are the potential secondary and tertiary consequences of the initial impacts.

Firstly, several US technology companies are suffering due to the ban. Secondly, Huawei is continuing to report year-on-year financial growth, therefore negative impacts are arguably limited. But the most interesting element of this story are the consequences because of the action to date.

In being unable to work with US suppliers, Huawei has been forced to look elsewhere, in most cases to Chinese suppliers, or create its own alternative. HiSilicon, the Huawei-owned semiconductor company, has likely been offered greater importance, while the firm is also creating an in-house alternative to the Android mobile operating system. Where Huawei can’t replicate products on its own, the Chinese ecosystem will benefit.

Not only are revenues being deprived from US suppliers, Huawei is removing reliance on an international supply chain while also driving more R&D funds to Chinese companies. China’s technology industry could be viewed as getting a boost, while the US influence is diluted. Arguably this is only because of US aggression towards Huawei.

This is all a very theoretical argument of course, and the chances of success or failure depend on the ability of Huawei to replicate the performance and efficiency of the US components of its supply chain. But it is a potential outcome which few have seemingly been paying attention to.

Germany to wait until March for Huawei decision – report

German Chancellor Angela Merkel might ask German lawmakers to wait until the conclusion of the March EU Summit before making a Huawei decision, reports suggest.

With the telecommunications industry chomping at the bit for clarity and certainty in the supplier ecosystem, such rumours will offer nothing but frustration, if the sources are to be believed. Taking place on 21-22 March, Germany might have to wait another two months before delivering the 5G era start in earnest.

According to Reuters, sources close to the German premier are suggesting a delay. It might be a play for time from Merkel, hoping for clarity from the highest bureaucratic office across the European lands. If politicians wait long enough, perhaps they can avoid making a decision altogether, and simply point critics towards orders from above.

While much attention has been paid to the Huawei predicament which is facing the UK Government, it can be easy to breeze past similar decisions which are being made elsewhere. Germany might not be facing the same external pressures as the UK currently, but there are certainly some very interesting storylines in play here.

First and foremost, you have to look at the competitive environment. Deutsche Telekom has been a customer of Huawei for years, as does Vodafone Germany and O2. A ban would impact the relationships already in place, not to mention the testing and validation work which has been conducted over the last few years.

Secondly, the political environment is quite interesting. Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD), the junior partner in the country’s governing coalition, has been considering proposals to ban Huawei equipment from being used in telecommunications infrastructure. This is just one party, but it is an influential one.

Third, the T-Mobile US and Sprint merger has been a factor. The US Government has been casting an eye very broadly when looking at this merger, and the fact that the parent company of ones of the parties works closely with Huawei is not something which will get the White House enthused.

Finally, the automotive industry is incredibly important to the German economy and China is incredibly important to the German automotive industry. China is BMWs single largest export market, while Audi has a very prominent position in the premium-end of the Chinese market. Germany will not want to cause too much friction because of the automotive industry’s joy in China.

While a decision has to be made in Germany, there will be critics irrelevant. Merkel will almost certainly know she will be unpopular with some depending on which way the voices swing, but perhaps stalling to March can deflect some of the impending outcry.

In the near future, the UK will make a decision on Huawei. This could have some influence on other nations in the European bloc, but perhaps more importantly, the European Commission will table security guidelines for telecommunications infrastructure. The stronger the stance from the Brussels bureaucrats, the more easily Merkel can deflect any criticism.