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2019.10.21 11:00

As Lithuania moves ahead with 5G, cooperation with US may strain over Chinese technology

Paulius Viluckas, BNS2019.10.21 11:00

The EU has published a 5G risk assessment report, which will help Lithuania better manage the development of the network, according to the country's Vice-Minister of Defence Edvinas Kerza. However, using Chinese equipment might jeopardise military cooperation with the US, he warns.

According to Edvinas Kerza, 5G auctions could be called as early as the first quarter of next year.

"It’s a huge step forward both for states and for operators as we have very clearly assessed and identified the risks we need to manage," he told BNS.

The European Commission is expected to release a specific document identifying all 5G-related risks in December, Kerza added, "meaning that countries like Lithuania will be able to call auctions early next year and operators will know exactly what they need to do".

"Then all possibilities will likely open up to choose the partner that will introduce the technology in Lithuania," the vice minister said.

It means 5G auctions could be called as early as the first quarter of next year, Kerza said, "I have no doubt it will be in the first quarter".

Chinese risks

The EU report identifies key security challenges if the existing networks are replaced by 5G networks. Kerza said the majority of EU member states have identified the same risks, starting with the impact of Chinese equipment on the development of the 5G network.

Therefore, NATO's assessment is necessary regarding the use of Huawei equipment in Lithuania's 5G infrastructure, Kerza said.

Read more: Chinese demonstration in Vilnius unmasks Beijing's reach into Lithuania – LRT Investigation

"We are still waiting for NATO's general assessment that will not only identify security risks, but will also identify all operators with evidence," he said.

"We have decided to take one step after another and identify risks and their management plan, then hold a frequency tender," the vice minister said.

Lithuanian cooperation with US could be in jeopardy

The US has on numerous times called on EU member states to block China's Huawei from 5G infrastructure in Europe.

Kerza says there's ongoing communication with the United States on a bilateral basis regarding the Huawei issue.

Read more: Baltics caught between superpowers in China's 5G battle – Investigation

"Our strategic partners have said that if Chinese equipment finds its way into our networks, they can hardly imagine military cooperation."

"Therefore, I believe it's too early to say something today, but we are talking with the US bilaterally on how we could resolve this problem," the vice minister said.

Read more: Lithuania must take Chinese threat as seriously as Russia's, analysts say