Kagan: Does EU have proof Huawei and ZTE are high-risk vendors?

Kagan: Does EU have proof Huawei and ZTE are high-risk vendors?

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Recently, the European Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton declared both Huawei and ZTE as high-risk vendors. As such, he recommends European Union Member States avoid using 5G networking equipment from these two Chinese companies. He says the security of 5G networks is essential and that these are critical infrastructures by themselves, and also for other industries who depend on them including energy, healthcare, finance, transportation and more.

The thing is, while these are the same arguments we have seen from a few other countries around the world over the last decade, the majority of countries are still doing business with these companies.

You would think if there was a verifiable problem, every country would take a hands-off approach. Yet, they do not. Why?

Essentially, the same question we’ve been asking for a decade, still remains unanswered. 

What proof do opposing government regulators have that Huawei and ZTE will cause security issues and subsequently harm consumers and business users?

These accusations do create FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt). That is clear. However, there does not seem to be any proof or evidence behind them, and it has been so for a decade or even longer. 

And that raises many questions. 

So, is there a there, there? Is there a real threat and danger, or just fear? 

Further, not all European Union countries and companies agree that there is. 

Klaus M. Steinmaurer, the Managing Director of RTR in Austria, or the Austrian Regulatory Authority for Broadcasting and Telecommunications said he doesn’t see how Chinese telecom companies pose a threat. He sees no reason for naming them high-risk vendors.

And that is the problem. There seem to be arguments made on both sides of this debate. So, that leaves this an open question with no way to really know which side is correct.

You would think since this is a matter of security, there should be proof. If there was, every country would be on the same page. 

So, why are they not? Why do only some countries have a problem while others do not? Why are many countries still doing business with Chinese companies. 

Here in the United States of America, we look at things from a certain perspective. We believe a person is innocent until proven guilty.

We believe the accuser must prove the offense. It’s not the reverse where it’s up to the accused to prove their innocence. 

That’s because it can be impossible to prove innocence. And before convicting there needs to be proof.

We have watched this play out over the last decade, and I do not know how companies like Huawei and ZTE can prove their innocence.

If the accusations are true, that is one thing. If they are not true, it is quite another. 

Blocking will be damaging these companies in the competitive marketplace. That’s why concerned countries and regulators should develop ways to search for and find any problems. 

In a perfect world, this is how countries and competitors should behave. If problems are found, a fix should be created if the problem was inadvertent. If the problem was deliberate, only then should companies be blocked from doing business in a country.

However, this is not a perfect world. Building wireless networks and 5G is a long and expensive process. It is not something that can be swapped out with equipment from a competitor quickly and easily.

So, changing horses in midstream can be very costly and time consuming. 

This is the bottom-line dilemma faced by regulators of every country upgrading to 5G technology and to international vendors.

Government officials can and should issue warnings. But they should leave the decision to the individual countries and companies. 

Regulators should not simply be charging companies with a crime when there is no evidence. 

5G is a great growth opportunity for every wireless player in the world. And both Huawei and ZTE are important players in this new wireless world. 

That’s why accusations without proof are not enough to punish a company.

Huawei says they are an open book. They are open to letting regulators and inspectors verify they are not problematic. That however has not been enough to convince certain opposing countries. 

The quick solution would be to simply block these companies from participating in the 5G revolution that has just begun. 

But would that be right or fair? This is the easy way out, but it has a negative impact on companies, workers, countries and economies. 

This would be like countries blocking Qualcomm, Ericsson, Nokia, Deutsche Telekom and others in the United States and in fact worldwide, in the 5G networking space. 

That’s why we really need to be thinking clear and straight on this issue. We should not simply act on fear and uncertainty alone. 

There are not that many global leaders in the 5G wireless space. The world needs each and every one of them. That includes Chinese competitors like Huawei and ZTE. 

So, before we eliminate any one of them, we must be sure we are doing the right thing for the right reasons and not out of blind fear or for competitive reasons. 

Government officials should be able to issue warnings. That is only fair and responsible. However, without proof, the decision should be left to each government individually. 


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