Telecoms security bill may exclude Huawei from Estonian market, firm says ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Huawei logo (picture is illustrative).
Huawei logo (picture is illustrative). Source: Kārlis Dambrāns/Creative Commons

Chinese mobile phone giant Huawei has written to interior minister Mart Helme (EKRE) in opposition to a bill requiring greater security checks on its devices and software. The company says that the bill – which concerns all telecoms companies - does not constitute fair and transparent regulation and would in effect exclude it from the market.

Chinese mobile phone giant Huawei has written to interior minister Mart Helme (EKRE) in opposition to a bill requiring greater security checks on its devices and software. The company says that the bill – which concerns all telecoms companies - does not constitute fair and transparent regulation and would in effect exclude it from the market.

A draft bill initiated by the Minister for Foreign Trade and IT Kaimar Karu (EKRE) in November, which would require telecoms companies to seek state permission when introducing new hardware and software, according to ERR's online Estonian news.

The security of any new tech will additionally be monitored by the Information System Authority (RIA), the Internal Security Service (ISS) and the state's foreign intelligence agency.

However, in its letter, Huawei said that it is committed to cyber security, but the current wording of the bill harms rather than helps this, as well as being aimed at excluding the mobile phone giant from the Estonian market.

"In addition to the above, we are concerned by the public consultation conducted this year in Estonia that the draft regulation may aim to eliminate Huawei from the market due to external pressure said legal counsel Tuomas Latola, acting for Hyawei Technologies OY (Finland) Co.

The Company objects to the 120-working day consultation period which would precede the introduction of hardware and software on all communications networks, and claims this does not allow the network operator to ensure the resilience and security of its communications networks and thus negatively affects national security by preventing a rapid response.

Huawei also believes that the bill ignores legal developments in cyber security and telecommunications in the EU. The transitional period of six months preceding the entry into force of the Regulation is not sufficient either, the company says.

Insufficient impact analysis has been carried out when drafting the regulation, the company says, giving as an example where the draft states it does not concern EU law, but at the same time references to EU law are contained in almost all section of the explanatory memorandum.

"The explanatory memorandum states that the amount of 'certain costs' that may be incurred by communications companies is unpredictable. Huawei estimates that the direct impact on the Estonian economy would be close to €300 million. For example, replacing Huawei equipment already in use would cost about €150 million," Latola wrote,a dding that there was a possibility that these costs would have to be reimbursed by the Estonian state since they had been borne by the business as a result of governmental activity.

Huawei says it believes the Estonian government should continue its dialogue with the industry to find an evidence-based and transparent approach, rather than indulging in over-regulation.

"Huawei hopes that the government will seize the opportunity and thoroughly evaluate and address the concerns expressed in Huawei's position," the company said, according to ERR.

The equipment offered by Huawei to set up 5G networks is said to be the most advantageous in the world, but law in the company's home country of China requires the company to grant Chinese intelligence access to its mobile data, which has raised security concerns in many western democracies.

At the end of December, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen expressed doubts about whether Huawei should be involved in European 5G networks.

In late October, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) agreed with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on a joint Estonian-US approach to security of 5G mobile communications networks, which in effect is likely to mean excluding Huawei from the market, as things stand.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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