Towards a trusted partnership in the establishment of EU 5G networks

Ken Hu, Deputy Chairman, Huawei

Cyber security is key in establishing trust in the digital world

With the global proliferation of new technologies like 5G, cloud computing, internet of things (IoT), and artificial intelligence (AI) come increased cyber security risks. As a global technology provider, Huawei is acutely aware of just how important cyber security is for ensuring trust in the digital world we all share. Unfortunately, cyber security is increasingly entangled with geopolitical issues, trade barriers, and declining trust between nations. However, politically motivated suspicion does not address challenges to enhance cyber security. Frequently, cyber security is used as an excuse to erect trade barriers, and this has further obscured the real issues.

Effective solutions must always be firmly based on facts. Huawei encourages all stakeholders in the digital ecosystem to evaluate risks in a rational, objective, and evidence-based manner. Cyber security involves many elements and stakeholders. An all-industry, full-society approach to collaboration is therefore essential to enhancing systematic cyber security governance for everyone.

Cyber security is the top priority at Huawei. We are committed to supporting the secure and stable operations of customer networks. Since its founding, Huawei has operated in more than 170 countries and regions, serving over three billion people around the world. Our equipment has never caused a large-scale network breakdown, and we have never experienced any serious cyber security breach. Huawei has never done anything to jeopardize the security of our customers’ networks or devices, and thus no evidence of such actions exists.

Recent debate has focused on several questions: Is cyber security a political or a technical issue? Is an equipment vendor’s country of origin a relevant risk factor? Are 5G networks less secure than 4G? Can equipment vendors control data flowing through telecom networks? Could an equipment vendor disable a carrier’s network with a “kill switch”? As a global technology provider, Huawei always tries to present a clear position on questions like these, so that governments, the industry, and other stakeholders can correctly analyze the issues and find effective solutions.

Geopolitical issues must not jeopardize the enormous potential of the digital economy

Information and communications technology (ICT) is helping to unlock the enormous potential of the digital economy. The world’s digital economy has grown 2.5 times faster than global GDP over the past 15 years. The digital economy will produce 23 trillion US dollars in new economic potential by 2025. In other words: by 2025, the digital economy will represent almost a quarter (24.3%) of the global GDP.

5G is playing a major role in this accelerated growth. According to data from the GSMA released in Barcelona 2019, the number of 5G connections will reach 1.4 billion by 2025. The number of global IoT connections will triple to 25 billion by 2025. 5G will contribute 2.2 trillion US dollars to the global economy over the next 15 years, with sectors such as manufacturing, utilities, and professional and financial services benefiting the most from the new technology.

Although the world grows evermore connected, almost half of the global population remains without access to the internet. Being connected goes beyond convenience and drives basic economic inclusion. By making digital universal, affordable, open, and safe, we can bring more people together and drive fundamental global progress. Devices and systems will increasingly become more intelligent and more connected in government processes and cross-sector industrial applications.

As an independent company, Huawei abides by established standards

Huawei is an independent company, committed to supporting the secure operations of our customers’ networks and services. No government or any third party holds shares in our company, intervenes in our operations, or influences our decision-making. Although we are not a public company, we abide by many established standards and norms for public companies, including the publication of an Annual Report audited by KPMG, an independent third-party organization. We do this to provide people outside the company with additional assurance of our business integrity, our independence, and the transparency of our finances.

Regardless of the discussion surrounding 5G, we firmly believe that no company should ever be forced to give up its customer’s data to the government for malicious purposes. We expect every company that we work with to be completely independent and we welcome that our partners expect the same from us. This not only applies to 5G, but to any business we conduct, whether it be in Asia, Europe, the United States or any other place.

There has been much debate about Chinese intelligence law and how it affects our company. Some groups of lawmakers claim that Chinese law allows the government to force companies to collect intelligence on its behalf. This is simply not true. The Chinese government has been explicitly clear about his, as have multiple independent legal scholars and practitioners: Government requests for company assistance must be in accordance with the law. There is no Chinese law authorizing the state intelligence agency to require a telecommunications equipment manufacturer to collect intelligence information, implant backdoors or disable customer networks.

Let us be clear: The Chinese government does not interfere with our business or the security of our products. If any were made to force us to do so – from any country or organization – we would reject it outright. We have been very clear on this point: If we are ever put in a position that jeopardizes our independence, the security of our products, customer networks, or security of foreign nation states, we would rather shut down the company than violate our principles.

If we continue to focus on irrelevant factors like a vendor’s country of origin, it will not advance the resolution of security challenges. If our approach to risk is based in emotion or bias, then results will be ineffective and we will be unable to benefit from the countless opportunities of 5G technology. Instead, governments and industry should work together on unified cyber security standards. These standards should be technology-neutral and apply equally to all companies and networks.

Published in the Security Times, 2020