The French cybersecurity agency, ANSSI, must indicate to telecom operators what equipment they are authorized to use for the deployment of their 5G network in France, but has not made any decision public.
The two sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that ANSSI had decided to approve the use of Huawei equipment, but only for what they described as non-essential parts of the network, because these pose less significant security risks.
“They don’t want to ban Huawei, but the principle is:” Get them out of the heart of the mobile network, “” said one of the two sources.
An ANSSI spokesperson declined to comment.
The main mobile networks carry higher surveillance risks because they integrate more sophisticated software which processes sensitive information such as customer personal data.
The decision of the French authorities concerning Huawei equipment is crucial for two of the country’s four telecom operators, Bouygues Telecom and SICE from Altice Europe, because around half of their current mobile network is carried out by the Chinese group.
Orange, controlled by the state, has already chosen the European rivals of Huawei, Nokia and Ericsson, which the United States has favored compared to Huawei.
So far, sources close to the French telecommunications industry have expressed concern that Huawei will be banned in practice even if no formal ban is announced.
THE STEPS OF BRITTANY
By granting a partial authorization to Huawei, France would follow in the footsteps of Great Britain, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson granting Huawei a limited role in the country’s 5G network.
Neighboring Germany is also struggling to reach consensus on the way forward. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling conservatives support tougher rules on foreign suppliers, but have not ended an outright ban on Huawei.
France is likely to follow instructions from EU industry chief Thierry Breton, who said in interviews that telecom operators should not select “at risk suppliers” for strategic sites such as capitals, military bases and nuclear power plants, said a separate source from the telecommunications industry.
Without ever quoting Huawei, which is based in Shenzhen, Breton said that a “supplier at risk” was a company that relied heavily on a foreign state or a state that could force it to disclose customer data.
ANSSI was initially to give the first results of the projection of 5G telecom equipment about a month ago.
The cybersecurity agency’s decision was delayed as it asked operators additional questions in December, the same source said.
But he also had intense exchanges with his supervisory authority, the office of the French Prime Minister, as well as with his British and German peers, to find a common approach towards Huawei, said one of the two sources close to the folder.
The Chinese group said last month that it plans to build its first European manufacturing plant in France in an effort to allay concerns over US accusations that Beijing may use its equipment to spy – which it denies.