Amid growing pressure from the US on European governments to reject Chinese tech firms, Huawei’s rotating CEO Ken Hu said on Tuesday (16 April) that the EU was doing “a great job” on cybersecurity.
In a keynote speech during its annual analyst summit in Shenzhen, where the company is based, Hu’s words were seen as a signal of the importance given by the company to European regulators. EURACTIV.com was invited to the summit.
Hu mentioned the cybersecurity centre opened in Brussels in early March in order to increase the transparency of the work done in this field and the cooperation with stakeholders and European regulators.
“Trust is critical” in the technology sector, Hu said.
“People have concerns,” he added. “At Huawei we fully understand these concerns, because we are consumers too”.
However he defended a “systemic approach” to strengthen cybersecurity across society, involving all industries.
For him, that includes the same standards for all companies, and not only targeting Chinese firms.
The response to cyberthreats “should be based on facts” that should be verified.
“The EU has done a great job in this area”, he added.
His comments came as the Trump administration is redoubling its pressure on countries across the world, especially European governments, to reject Huawei and other Chinese vendors. US senior officials have warned of the risk of cyber-espionage and disruption in 5G networks, the next communication generation network, where Huwaei is leading the race.
US and senior European officials pointed out that Chinese law forces Chinese companies to cooperate with their intelligence services.
Against this backdrop, and following the arrest of a Huawei employee in Poland over an alleged espionage scandal, the European Commission told member states to complete a national risk assessment of 5G network infrastructure by the end of June.
By October, the Commission and the European Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) will complete a coordinated risk assessment.
Based on these assessments, the EU will decide on next steps, including certifications to operate and the possibility for national authorities to exclude vendors that fail to meet security requirements.
Standards fo all
“The EU is being pragmatic” and is not following Washington’s demands, Joe Kelly, Huawei’s chief spokesperson, told EURACTIV.com
“We expect the EU to set standards, guidelines and requirements and then to apply them to all vendors, irrespective of where the headquarters are based”, he added.
For other senior representatives of the company, the recent public exposure helped the firm.
“Actually we became busier, because over the last months we had free publicity”, said Hong-Eng Koh, global chief of the public safety division.
Despite the US pressure and concerns in some European corners, the company kept adding new commercial contracts to rollout 5G network over the past months even at a faster pace.
Huawei representatives said that the company has already signed 23 contracts with European ‘telecom’ for the implementation of 5G, and a total of 40 deals worldwide. Companies include Vodafone, Hutchison, Deutsche Telekom and Telecom Italia.
As US stepped up pressure on Europeans to reject Huawei, threatening to suspend intelligence cooperation, Hu insisted on keeping the discussion on technology “away from politics.”
“This is a challenge not only for a company, but on a larger scale for trade relations,” he said in relation to the ongoing trade war between Washington and Beijing.
Faster than expected
Hu acknowledged that 5G arrived “much faster than we expected.” And he predicted that, by 2025, some 6.5 million bases will be installed, covering 2.8 billion people, 58% of the world’s population.
He described a future in which the 5G will bring a frictionless consumer experience, not fragmented by apps, by placing artificial intelligence at its core.
(Edited by Benjamin Fox)