Tension continues over the role of Chinese equipment firms such as Huawei in Western telecoms networks
Ireland has taken the next step in creating a ‘high risk vendor’ policy outlining possible threats to the security of the country’s national telecoms networks.
The Government says that it will soon introduce legislation “to enhance the security of electronic communications, including 5G networks”.
It comes as international tension continues over the role of Chinese equipment firms such as Huawei in Western telecoms networks.
The Government says that its system of assessing levels of risk that individual telecoms suppliers pose will be based on the EU’s ‘5G Security Toolbox’.
However, it has not yet completed any assessment into particular suppliers.
“No decision has been taken on individual vendors,” said a spokesperson for the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications, which is overseeing the measures.
“Any assessment will follow clear objective criteria, such as those recommended in the EU 5G Security Toolbox, and follow a defined process set out in legislation.”
Under the rules, the government can designate certain vendors as being ‘high risk’. That could lead to a prohibition on such vendor’s equipment being used in “critical” parts of Irish telecoms networks.
The Government has opened a consultation process for the telecoms industry, which will continue until mid January.
Last month, Junior Communications Minister Ossian Smyth told the Irish Independent that he could not refer to “any particular supplier by name. But I will talk about high risk vendors, which is a real issue”.
In the UK, Huawei has been singled out by authorities as a potential security threat to telecoms networks, with operators ordered to remove all Huawei equipment from the country’s 5G infrastructure by 2027.
A handful of EU countries have also taken a hard line on Chinese telecoms manufacturers from their core network infrastructure rollout.
However, most EU countries have taken a wait-and-see approach and have not directed operators not to include Huawei equipment.
In Ireland, Huawei equipment is included in several of Ireland’s largest networks, including those of Eir, Siro and Imagine.
Use of the company’s kit has been strongly defended by CEOs such as Eir’s Carolyn Lennon, who says that the company follows all security guidance from Irish and EU authorities.
“We've made sure that we're compliant with the EU guidelines and the government guidelines,” said Siro CEO John Heaney last month. “The risk is very low.”
In Ireland, Huawei employs 480 people, mostly in research and development. It recently announcing a fresh recruitment drive to bring its headcount here to 590.