Chinese tech companies Huawei and ZTE were dealt a severe blow in Italy as new governmental guidelines impose new security protocols that may spell the end of their role in the construction of the nation’s 5G network.
On Monday morning a secretive three-page document was sent to the managers of Italian telecoms operators. The pages set out a series of draconian measures requiring extra oversight for non-European 5G components suppliers, including continuous access to the system’s source code and weekly security reports to be handed to the government.
The security measures exclude European tech companies such as Ericsson and Nokia while essentially zeroing in on Huawei and ZTE, the only non-European competitors in Italy as well as much of the European market.
These measures are likely to be prohibitive for the Chinese tech companies’ Italian operations.
Ministers have recently amended the State’s “golden power”, or lawful intervention in private companies for the sake of national interest, to make it applicable to 5G matters. This happened exactly a week ago in a tense meeting between the two governing parties, the Five Star and the Democratic Party.
During that same meeting, the government decided to use the “golden power” to curb Huawei’s supplies to TIM and Windtre, two major telecoms operators in Italy. TIM, which also operates in Brazil, has sought to anticipate the Italian government by dropping Huawei from its tender to build its 5G networks just last week.
A highly-ranking government official who spoke to Formiche.net called the new measures “prohibitive to say the least” for the two Chinese tech companies.
“The match for 5G security has just begun, but a milestone was set on Monday,” said the same source, who also acknowledged the “lack of political conditions” for a clear governmental stance on Chinese 5G.
While Democrats have been pushing to curb the proliferation of potentially unsecure Chinese components in Italy’s 5G network, the Five Star, supportive of all manners of economic relations with China, have opposed some resistance.
The Five Star minister for economic development Stefano Patuanelli reportedly dismissed a December report by the parliamentary security commission, COPASIR, that warned MPs about serious security concerns related to Chinese tech in critical infrastructure.
British prime minister Bris Johnson has also impaired Huawei’s proliferation in the UK by preventing telecoms companies from acquiring Chinese tech starting next year, and also calling for the removal of Huawei components from the nation’s older generation telecoms infrastructures.
The move comes as London decides to side with Washington in its “tech Cold War” with Beijing. US president Donald Trump has been pressuring his European allies to do away with Chinese tech, citing security concerns while also aiming to disadvantage his economic rivals.