Britain ‘approves’ Huawei role in 5G network

PTI London | Updated on April 24, 2019 Published on April 24, 2019

Huawei, China’s first global tech brand, was founded in 1987 by a former military engineer

British Prime Minister Theresa May has given the go-ahead for China’s Huawei to help build a 5G network in the UK, shrugging off security warnings from senior ministers and Washington surrounding the telecoms giant, media reported Wednesday.

Britain’s National Security Council, which is chaired by May, agreed on Tuesday to allow the Chinese technology giant limited access to build “non-core” infrastructure such as antennas, The Daily Telegraph said. The Times was more cautious, stating that May was “considering giving limited approval”.

Final decision

May’s reported moves come despite concerns raised by Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt. May’s Downing Street office declined to comment, while Digital Minister Margot James also offered caution.

“In spite of cabinet leaks to the contrary, final decision yet to be made on managing threats to telecoms infrastructure,” she tweeted. She later told Sky News that while a final decision had not been made, James indicated that a security review had concluded.

“The decision has not been finally made yet and the Prime Minister will take advice form all of the relevant agencies and departments,” James added. Huawei meanwhile welcomed the report that May had given the go-ahead. “Huawei welcomes reports that the UK government is moving towards allowing Huawei to help build the UK’s 5G network,” it said in a statement.

Cutting edge technology

“This green light means that UK businesses and consumers will have access to the fastest and most reliable networks thanks to Huawei’s cutting edge technology. “While we await a formal government announcement, we are pleased that the UK is continuing to take an evidence-based approach to its work and we will continue work cooperatively with the government, and the industry,” the Chinese company added.

Britain’s move would be at odds with the United States, which has banned Huawei’s 5G technology from its territory and urged allies in the so-called Five Eyes intelligence sharing collective -- comprising also Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand -- to follow suit. Huawei is the leading manufacturer of equipment for next-generation 5G mobile networks with almost instantaneous data transfer that will become the nervous system of Europe’s economy, in strategic sectors like energy, transport, banking and health care.

The technology titan faces pushback in some Western markets over fears Beijing could spy on communications and gain access to critical infrastructure. Last month, Britain identified “significant technological issues” in Huawei’s engineering processes that pose “new risks” for the nation’s telecommunications, according to a government report.

Cyber security

“Further significant technical issues have been identified in Huawei’s engineering processes, leading to new risks in the UK telecommunications networks,” read annual findings from the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre oversight board. The board -- which includes officials from Britain’s GCHQ Cyber security agency as well as a senior Huawei executive and representatives from the UK telecommunications sector -- added it could provide only limited assurance that risks posed by the Chinese tech giant to UK national security would be “sufficiently mitigated long-term”.

Shrugging off the widespread concerns, Egypt on Sunday said Huawei would roll out 5G phone network for the first time during the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations football tournament.

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Published on April 24, 2019
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