Up to 400 million euros: Huawei ban could be expensive for Deutsche Bahn
If Huawei technology were to be banned in Germany, it would be very expensive for Deutsche Bahn (DB). Replacing your entire Huawei infrastructure would cost DB up to 400 million euros. This is reported by Der Spiegel, citing an internal group document available to it. The federal government fears espionage from China and is therefore discussing banning Huawei technology. A ban on certain control elements from the Chinese manufacturers Huawei and ZTE in German 5G networks is already planned.
According to Der Spiegel, Deutsche Bahn projects could be delayed by “5 to 6 years” if the infrastructure had to be replaced at short notice. According to this, almost 800 base stations for train radio would have to be replaced in northern Germany. The train crew and the control center communicate via the train radio. Even with Deutsche Bahn’s internal IT, “large parts of the core network” would be affected by a Huawei ban.
Current DB order involves Huawei
It was only in December 2022 that Deutsche Bahn placed an order with a Telekom subsidiary that uses Huawei components: For 64 million euros, it is to supply most of the components for Deutsche Bahn’s new IP network, as the Reuters news agency reported in March. With the order, DB ignored safety concerns and warnings from Germany and abroad, such as from the USA. However, a DB spokeswoman told Reuters that Deutsche Bahn had followed the authorities’ recommendations. Currently, you do not have to have your network components checked by the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI). A BSI spokesman confirmed that: DB’s IT systems have not yet been classified as “critical components”.
It was only in October 2022 that Deutsche Bahn became the victim of an alleged act of sabotage. It turned out that the attackers were after the cables – not the infrastructure itself. Train traffic in northern Germany was paralyzed for about three hours. The thieves thus disrupted the GSM R(ailway) network – a mobile network for communication with trains. Without this connection between trains and dispatchers, traffic has to stand still for safety reasons.
Traffic light government criticized the DB
In March, politicians in the federal government criticized DB’s order to the Telekom subsidiary. Konstantin von Notz (Greens) reacted irritated to Reuters: “If it’s true that the company is increasingly relying on Huawei technology, that raises serious questions.” This makes it clear “that not everyone seems to have realized how important it is to take the urgent warnings from the security authorities very seriously.” Von Notz is chairman of the parliamentary control body that oversees the German secret services.
Maximilian Funke-Kaiser, digital policy spokesman for the FDP parliamentary group, told the Handelsblatt: “There is a need for legal tightening so that Chinese technology can no longer be operated in Deutsche Bahn’s IT network.” SPD digital politician Jens Zimmermann complained to the Handelsblatt: “DB has been completely ignorant of the problem for a long time”. He recommends that the board of directors “take the issue very, very seriously.”
EU bans Huawei and ZTE
The federal government is more specific than with the railways when it comes to the 5G network in Germany. She wants to ban certain controls from the Chinese manufacturers Huawei and ZTE from the network to protect the critical infrastructure. In mid-June, the EU Commission demanded that the EU states reduce their dependency on “risky providers” when expanding 5G mobile networks and take action with the telecommunications operators as soon as possible. EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton tweeted at the time: “As of today, the EU Commission will not procure connectivity services based on devices from Huawei and ZTE.” Huawei criticized these plans.
Updated 08/07/2023 8:24 am
We added that it was not an act of sabotage that paralyzed the railway last October, but that thieves were targeting the cables.
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