BARCELONA – Officials from the State Department in the United States and America’s telecommunications regulator publicly outlined their campaign to exclude Huawei Technologies Co. from allies’ next-generation communications networks, calling the Chinese equipment-maker duplicitous and deceitful.
The officials, however, declined to offer any specific evidence of so-called backdoors in Huawei infrastructure that would permit it to spy on the US or its allies.
Speaking at mobile industry conference MWC Barcelona Tuesday, Robert Strayer, the State Department’s top cybersecurity official, said the US has had successful conversations with international allies about what it sees as security threats posed by Huawei.
Those discussions are taking place as carriers around the globe race to roll out faster, 5G networks.
“People are understanding the points that we’re making,” he said, standing alongside Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai.
His comments come despite recent moves by allies such as Germany, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates that indicate telecom companies in those nations will find ways to include Huawei gear in their infrastructure.
“Huawei rejects, as it has many times, the US government’s tired and unsubstantiated allegations against our company,” a Huawei spokesman said. “Cybersecurity is an important issue that can only be addressed by technology and engagement, not politics and evidence-free insinuations.”
The company has forcefully denied that it poses a national security threat and has said it would never conduct cyber espionage on behalf of any government.
The US officials didn’t offer evidence of Beijing using Huawei to spy. Instead, Strayer described a recent UK report that outlined shortcomings in the security of Chinese firm’s software and a pair of criminal indictments announced last month.
“We have substantial concerns about them,” he said, pointing to Chinese national law that requires its organizations and citizens to cooperate in intelligence gathering on behalf of the government.
“Are you willing to have a system that is potentially compromised by the Chinese government, or would you rather have something more secure?” he said.
One rival equipment maker earlier this week used the conference to position itself as a more secure vendor than Huawei.
“People everywhere are asking the legitimate questions about how best to secure critical networks, about which vendors are appropriate to use and which are not,” Nokia Corp. Rajeev Suri said Sunday, without specifically naming China or Huawei during a news conference.
Earlier Tuesday, Huawei rotating chairman Ken Hu said that of 30 5G commercial contracts the company had signed to date, 18 are in Europe.
Nine contracts are in the Middle East, and three are in Asia-Pacific, he said.
One recently signed customer, South Korea’s LG UPlus, has asked Huawei to install more than 10,000 5G base stations in a single year, Hu said, while the Chinese company has shipped more than 40,000 5G base stations in total.
Strayer said the US delegation made sure to bring their own lanyards instead of wearing the ones bearing the Huawei logo worn by most conference attendees because the company is a major sponsor of the event.