According to Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD), critical components from Chinese suppliers will no longer be allowed to be used in Germany’s public 5G mobile networks from January 1, 2026. As government circles in Berlin reported, this planned complete ban affects the so-called core network of Telekom, Vodafone and Telefónica.

This is not just about components that are newly installed, but also about components of the network that have already been installed.

Beyond the core network – in the “access and transport network” – the “structural dependence on components from the manufacturers Huawei and ZTE” should also be reduced by October 1, 2026, it said.

Strict ban in certain regions

There should also be a strict ban that goes beyond the critical components in security-relevant regions, such as Berlin and the Rhine and Ruhr. The aim is to avoid risks for government actions and the economy. However, such restrictions should not apply in rural regions, where users often complain about a weak network.

With regard to the ban, the federal government argues less with the risks of espionage or hacking, but rather with the risks of excessive dependence on Chinese companies that cannot escape state influence.

Coordination on the planned changes with the other federal government departments – the Ministry of Economic Affairs in particular being affected, but also the Foreign Office – is reportedly expected to begin soon. The fact that companies should be given over two years to replace their components is intended to avoid failures in the mobile network.

Security policy aspects

The 2022 Office for the Protection of the Constitution states: “In the long term, strategic methods of cyber espionage against Western democracies that serve to enforce Chinese interests should be considered.” Government circles are now saying that when the existing components from manufacturers Huawei and ZTE are tested in the networks, the presence of vulnerabilities is not important.

Rather, it is about a forecast in which security policy, non-technical aspects in particular have to be taken into account. According to the Interior Ministry, this also includes possible blackmail, which could result from a strong dependence on Chinese manufacturers.

On the one hand, the two major European providers Ericsson and Nokia are likely to benefit from the looming ban on mobile communications components from the Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE. The winning side could also include providers such as Rakuten from Japan or Cisco from the USA, who are entering the market. Most of Huawei’s competitors also pursue the open technical concept “Open RAN”, which makes mobile network operators less dependent on individual manufacturers than before.

Industry against a ban

In the past, the mobile communications industry had always spoken out against a blanket ban on components from Huawei and ZTE. At the beginning of August, Vodafone pointed out technical problems in the countries where an unplanned, very rapid exclusion had occurred. “Sometimes significant quality losses in the mobile networks” were registered there. “The faster and more unplanned such an expansion is, the greater the effects,” warned Vodafone Germany’s head of technology, Tanja Richter.

Richter appealed to politicians not to just debate a “blunt and unplanned replacement of many thousands of antennas” that are not critical components. Rather, we need to talk about technical options that could further increase the security of the critical infrastructure in the long term without worsening the quality of the networks.