(Bloomberg) -- Norway is facing a tough political decision on who should be allowed to build out its next-generation telecommunications network amid a push by the the U.S. to shut out China’s Huawei Technologies Co.
In an interview on Friday, Norway’s new digitization minister, Nikolai Astrup, said the decision isn’t “black and white.”
Norway is looking over the compliance with its security laws ahead of a pending tender where suppliers such as Ericsson AB and Huawei are set to compete in the roll-out of the 5G networks. Norway’s Telenor ASA has used Huawei technology in its 4G network, and so far there are no security issues, according to the minister.
“We have no indication that the security in the network is not good today,” Astrup said on Friday in an interview at his office. “We have a close dialog with the companies, and there are no indication of this.”
Astrup declined to give a timing on his decision, saying he hopes to make one before next year’s 5G roll-out.
“Obviously, there is a major political dimension here, but my task must be to pay attention to what I will contribute to solve, to combine security and a rapid roll-out of 5G,” he said.
The U.S. administration of President Donald Trump has been pushing its allies to bar China’s Huawei from their telecom networks. So far, not a single European country has banned the company, which has repeatedly denied it’s a security threat. But Norway’s own security service has also warned against Huawei.
Astrup is focused on the risk of having just one supplier providing the technology for what are critical data networks. Testing equipment from several providers and ensuring they can communicate with each other is now a priority.
“If the operators choose an approach of vendor diversity, then national dependency on one vendor would be reduced,” he said.
Hanne Tangen Nilsen, chief security officer at Telenor ASA, said in an email that they have a good dialog with the Norwegian authorities about the security in the infrastructure. She also said that they haven’t yet set a date for when they will chose suppliers, but that they are currently running 5G pilots with Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia in Norway and Denmark through 2019.
According to Astrup the next generation network will be crucial for the nation’s petroleum and fisheries industries to become even more productive.
But a higher degree of digitization also brings with it a greater risk of cyber crime, as seen last week when Norway’s aluminum maker Norsk Hydro ASA was hit by a ransomware attack that forced it shut parts of its production.
“There’s no doubt that the more we do digital, the more vulnerable we become,” Astrup said. “All it takes is a small back door, a tiny security hole that is needed before unauthorized persons can access information.”
(Adds comment from Telenor in 10th.)
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