Italy security committee urges tougher government stance on Huawei, ZTE

ROME (Reuters) – Italy should consider preventing Chinese telecoms firms Huawei and ZTE from taking part in the development of 5G networks, a parliamentary security committee said on Thursday.

The United States has lobbied Italy and other European allies to stay clear of Huawei equipment for 5G and to pay close scrutiny to ZTE, saying the vendors could pose a security risk. Both companies have strongly denied any such risk.

The Italian committee’s opinion, which is not binding for the government, was contained in a document submitted to parliament on Dec. 12.

The committee also called for additional government steps to protect the domestic 5G network from companies with links to foreign government, such as ZTE and Huawei.

“The committee cannot help but consider that the concerns about the involvement of Chinese companies in the installation, configuration and maintenance of 5G network infrastructure are to a large extent founded,” it said.

Huawei said in a statement the company is open to cooperating with all Italian government entities and to providing all the guarantees needed to allow operators to rapidly deploy 5G networks.

The Shenzen-based company rejected any suggestion that its equipment could pose a security risk, saying Huawei is a wholly private company and its Italian unit adheres to Italian law.

ZTE declined to comment specifically about the report but a spokesman for the Chinese firm said the company is available to provide any information required by the security committee.

The Italian parliament in October passed legislation giving the government special vetting powers over 5G supply deals between domestic firms and non-EU providers.

Government sources told Reuters at the time the decision reflected concerns over the role of Huawei and ZTE.

(Reporting by Stefano Bernabei, Giuseppe Fonte and Elvira Pollina, editing by Alexandra Hudson)