The UK government has given the green light for Huawei Technologies to construct part of its next-generation 5G cellular network by 2027. The government dismissed calls from the Trump administration to boycott the Chinese telecom-equipment vendor over security concerns.
According to multiple reports, conservative members of the UK government have initially pushed Boris Johnson to come up with plans to remove telecom equipment made by the Chinese manufacturer Huawei from the nation’s 5G networks by 2023.
The decision by the Prime Minister, who wanted the market share of Huawei in the telecommunications infrastructure of the country capped at 35 percent, brings the UK back into alignment with other countries that have considered the ban.
The four 5G networks in the UK are controlled by:
- EE (a subsidiary of BT)
EE, Three, and Vodafone would all have to strip out some equipment of Huawei if the government approves the ban.
The role of Huawei in international networking is as a result of the company having close relations with the Chinese government. There are fears that when a country depends on the telecom equipment of Huawei, it could expose that country to potential cybersecurity threats and weaken national security.
The UK government has eased the ban on Huawei, allowing them maintain a foothold in the telecom infrastructure of the country. This plan has gotten the approval of the intelligence agencies of Britain in January.
The conservatives believe that this is good news, because it will be the beginning of a complete and thorough review of the country’s dependency on China.
It is not only the UK that has shown concerns over Huawei’s ability to act independently of the interests of the Chinese national government, the Australian government and the US have also shown significant concerns.
The major concern is one of trust between countries regarding cyberspace. It seems unreasonable to expect Huawei to refuse a direction from the Chinese Communist Party.
Due to the recent tensions between China and the US, allies such as the UK and Australia would better not expose themselves to any risks from having the technology of the foreign telecommunications company in their networks.
It is easy to imagine a period when China and the US end up in some sort of conflict. If there was a war, the US will most likely ask Australia for assistance and then they will be in this uncomfortable situation if they had Huawei in their networks.
In January, the UK government agreed to allow telecom giant Huawei have a limited role in constructing its new 5G data network, despite pressure from the US to cut the Chinese company out of development plans. The US sees Huawei as a security risk and has cited its ties to the Communist Party of China and possible links to the military a long time ago.
The UK government says it will prevent Huawei from mounting its equipment in sensitive core areas of 5G and other high-speed networks. It will also prevent the involvement of Huawei and other high-risk vendors at non-sensitive areas of the network in Britain.
The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) in the UK, which carried out security and technical analysis for the 5G supply chain review of the government, thinks Huawei is a high-risk vendor – but rather than banning the company from its important new network, the center is asking British companies to limit the use Huawei so they can collectively manage the risk.
Also, the NCSC warns that other nations should not include Huawei in their 5G network plans unless they have a really vast regulatory system.
The US claims that the company has a backdoor access that makes it possible for China to spy on people from regular citizens to information from sensitive government agencies. Huawei denies these allegations. But the founder and CEO, Ren Zhengfei, said last year that there is no law in China that requires any company to install mandatory back doors.
The United States is “disappointed” by the decision of the UK government to ease Huawei by 2027. They stated that there is no safe option for vendors that are untrusted to control any part of a 5G network.
They intend to work with the UK government on a way forward that leads to the exclusion of untrusted vendor components, such as Huawei, from 5G networks. The US government continue to urge other countries to carefully assess the long-term national security and economic impacts of allowing untrusted vendors access vital 5G network infrastructure.
Huawei were glad with the evidence-based decision by the UK to ease their ban by 2027. The telecom giant is reassured by the confirmation of the UK government that they can continue working with their customers to keep the 5G rollout on track.
Concerns of the UK Government
The UK government faced a dilemma, considering the economic costs and concerns about national security and the relationship of the country with its closest ally, the US, and the world’s second-largest economy, China.
Few months ago, the US warned some of its closest allies that if Huawei is part of their 5G telecom infrastructure, their agencies will be reluctant to share important intelligence.
In explaining the decision by the UK government, the NCSC said it considered all options – but blamed a broken market for reducing its choices for large-scale 5G network providers to just three companies (Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei). The agency also said that Huawei is not the only high-risk vendor analyzed for the 5G review.
There is a speculation Mr. Johnson might decide to ban Huawei from the core areas of the networks only. The core includes important functions like authenticating subscribers and sending voice and data between devices. That is sometimes referred to as the brains or heart of a network.
Mr. Johnson said he wanted a system that delivers consumer benefits without compromising national infrastructure, security or the relationships of the UK with other intelligence agencies. The UK government will create with a solution that enables them achieve both those objectives and that is the way forward.
The Chinese company, founded by a former deputy director of the People’s Liberation Army engineering corps, cited its years of experience operating in the UK. The company assures the government that they can continue to work with customers to keep the 5G roll-out on track.
This decision will lead to a more advanced, more secure, and more cost-effective telecoms infrastructure that fits the future. It grants access to the UK access on world-leading technology and ensures a competitive market.
Huawei has supplied cutting-edge technology to telecoms operators in the UK for more than 15 years. They will build on this strong track record, supporting customers as they invest in their 5G networks, improving economic growth and helping the UK continue to compete globally.