Huawei Will Supply 5G Equipment to the U.K.

Written by Jennifer Clark
Posted January 29, 2020

Earlier this week, the U.K. government announced that it would permit Chinese company Huawei to provide the equipment needed to build out the U.K’s 5G networks. This comes as a shock to the U.S., one of the country’s allies, since it has directed other countries not to trust Huawei or allow it to create 5G networks. 

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), the cybersecurity arm of the U.K.’s GCHQ intelligence agency, has described Huawei as a “high-risk vendor” and has said, “Our experience has shown that Huawei’s cybersecurity and engineering quality is low and its processes opaque.” There’s still a lot to uncover about the company and its intentions despite its insistence that it does not and will not spy on behalf of the Chinese government. 

During the Tuesday announcement, the U.K government clearly stated that Huawei would supply equipment for “non-core” parts of the 5G network, and Huawei would be banned from more sensitive areas within the U.K. telecommunications grid. It’ll also be limiting the company's use of its equipment in the network’s periphery to 35% of the system. Huawei wouldn’t have access to areas like military bases and nuclear sites. 

The decision probably wasn’t an easy one, but the U.K. is going through a lot of pains right now, including leaving the European Union. It's also on the receiving end of pressure from the Trump administration, threatening that involvement with Huawei could jeopardize Britain’s central role in the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing group. Not to mention, banning Huawei would affect London deeply through Chinese trade and investment plans with the U.K. Taking sides hasn’t come easy for the U.K. 

The country can’t afford to get stuck behind when it comes to 5G’s advancement throughout the world. British officials told The Guardian:

Officials feared banning the provider could have delayed 5G rollout by two to three years, increased the cost to consumers-and dented economic growth.

The idea of being left behind isn’t ideal to the U.K. The BBC reports:

The Trump administration’s cyber-security chiefs, along with their Australian counterparts, contend that over time the ‘edge’ — the name given to the boundary between the core and periphery — will disappear, as more and more sensitive operations are carried out closer to users. As a result, they claim it will no longer be possible to keep Huawei, and by extension the Chinese state, out of the network’s most sensitive areas.

Huawei has become a leader in 5G technology and one of the world’s biggest sellers of smartphones. Its products are superior and cheaper than what has been offered in the U.K., which makes it seem like an ideal choice. However, there are rumors that the company has taken loans out from the Chinese state, and under Chinese law, Chinese companies can be ordered to act under the direction of Beijing. Huawei says that it would not help the Chinese government spy, but it doesn’t seem like it would be easy to ignore an order from the Chinese government. 

The U.K. has reiterated that it will be working closely to prevent any risks. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said in a statement:

The government is certain that these measures, taken together, will allow us to mitigate the potential risk posed by the supply chain and to combat the range of threats, whether cyber criminals, or state sponsored attacks. 

The U.K. is doing what it needs to do to stay ahead technologically and has assured its citizens and the world that there is nothing to fear with having Huawei supply equipment for 5G networks. 

Until next time, 

Jennifer Clark
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