Risky to shut out any 5G provider completely - Merkel

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Diversification is crucial to ensuring a country’s security in the rollout of 5G mobile technology and shunning one supplier altogether risks being counterproductive, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel gestures as she delivers a special address at the 50th World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland January 23, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Merkel’s government has been wrangling for weeks over how strict security requirements for Germany’s 5G rollout should be, and whether they should effectively shut out Chinese technology giant Huawei from the network.

German operators are all Huawei customers and have warned that banning the Chinese vendor would add years of delays and billions of dollars in costs to the launch of 5G networks.

Without naming Huawei, Merkel said of the 5G conundrum: “How do I make myself secure? I think I make myself the most secure through diversification and redundancy where it is necessary, those are the technical approaches to secure myself.

“I don’t think I make myself particularly secure if I completely eliminate providers in their entirety and then don’t know how they develop - I am skeptical about that,” she said at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Senior conservative Norbert Roettgen told Reuters on Tuesday there was a groundswell of support among lawmakers in Merkel’s conservative bloc to require firms that roll out Germany’s 5G network to be free of political influence in their home country.

The United States says equipment provided by Huawei, the world’s leading telecoms equipment vendor with a market share of 28%, contains “back doors” that would enable China to spy on other countries.

Huawei has denied the allegations.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration imposed export controls on Huawei in May, hobbling its smartphone business and raising questions over whether the Chinese company can maintain its market lead in the telecoms equipment sector.

Turning to the crisis in the Middle East, Merkel warned against prematurely scrapping an international nuclear deal with Iran, saying it would be wrong to abandon an “imperfect” deal with nothing better in place.

On climate change, she said the world needs an open dialogue to heal the gap between skeptics and believers.

“Time is pressing, so we - the older ones, I am 65 years old - must make sure that we take the impatience of young people positively and constructively,” Merkel said.

“But as we live in a time when facts are in competition with emotion ... we need to reconcile the emotions with the facts. And that is perhaps the biggest social challenge ... That requires at least that we speak to one another.”

Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Thomas Escritt and David Clarke