By Kirsti Knolle
VIENNA (Reuters) - Deutsche Telekom is open to exchanging data with other operators to improve network security as the industry moves towards super-fast 5G technology, the head of its European business said on Tuesday.
Telecoms network security has become a hot political issue after the United States alleged that equipment supplied by China's Huawei could be used by Beijing for spying and urged allies to shun the company. Huawei strongly rejects the allegations.
The European Commission on Tuesday ignored U.S. calls to ban Huawei across the bloc, saying that EU nations would instead be required to share data on 5G cybersecurity risks and produce measures to tackle them by the end of the year.
EU countries will have to assess the cybersecurity risks by June. That will then form the basis for an EU-wide assessment, ultimately leading to certification standards and tests of products or suppliers considered to pose risks.
"There is nothing more important for our industry than ensuring the security of the networks we operate in," said Srini Gopalan at the launch of a 5G pioneer network in the Austrian capital of Vienna. The German company's T-Mobile Austria is one of three major telecoms operators in the Alpine country.
"We would like to do everything productive and positive to enhance that."
The telecoms industry sees 5G as the next big moneyspinner, with its promise to link up everything from vehicles to household devices.
Austria, an EU laggard for fast broadband connections, wants to become a 5G pioneer in Europe. It is among the first EU countries to auction 5G licences and aims to have 5G services available on main traffic routes by the end of 2023, with "virtually nationwide" coverage by the end of 2025.
Austria's flagship telecoms group A1 has picked Nokia as its partner for building 5G mobile networks.
Deutsche Telekom currently relies on several suppliers, including Huawei, for its network equipment and is reviewing its procurement strategy after Washington's allegations.
"We have today multiple vendors including Huawei, Nokia and Ericsson in our networks," Gopalan said. "When I said we are reviewing our procurement - what we are reviewing is the mix of that."
Deutsche Telekom said it would invest 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) by 2021 to build its 5G network in Austria and went live on Tuesday with 25 next-generation mobile network transmission stations across the country.
The third major mobile telecoms provider in Austria, Chinese group Hutchison's Drei Austria, on Tuesday said it would work with Chinese equipment maker ZTE Corp in the first phase of 5G network expansion, which will mainly speed up data services in densely populated areas.
For the next phase, which will provide the data rates needed for self-driving cars, Drei Austria will issue a tender, for which Huawei could apply, Chief Executive Jan Trionow said.
($1 = 0.8847 euros)
(Reporting by Kirsti Knolle, additional reporting by Foo Yun Chee in Strasbourg; Editing by Mark Potter and David Goodman)