UK to allow Huawei in 5G networks but not in ‘core’ parts

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Britain decided to give Huawei limited access to build 35 percent of the less risky radio access network parts of its new high-speed mobile network, in a setback for the US, which has been pushing allies to ban the Chinese company.

An attendee wears a badge strip with the logo of Huawei and 5G at the World 5G Exhibition in Beijing, China. November 22, 2019.
An attendee wears a badge strip with the logo of Huawei and 5G at the World 5G Exhibition in Beijing, China. November 22, 2019. (Reuters Archive)

Britain decided on Tuesday to give Huawei limited access to build parts of its new high-speed mobile network, in a setback for the US, which has been pushing allies to ban the Chinese company.

The government said it is excluding “high risk” companies from supplying the sensitive “core” parts of the new fifth-generation, or 5G, networks. But it will allow high-risk suppliers to provide up to 35 percent of the less risky radio access network.

The announcement did not mention any companies by name but said “high-risk vendors are those who pose greater security and resilience risks to UK telecoms networks” – a clear reference to Huawei.

The US claims that China’s communist leaders could, under a 2017 national intelligence law, compel Huawei to carry out cyber espionage. Huawei denies that would be possible.

The 5G infrastructure program is seen as being critical to Britain’s economic future as the country leaves the European Union.

But the decision is fraught, as the US objects to allowing Huawei to provide vital infrastructure and has threatened to cut off intelligence sharing with allies that do use Huawei.

The British government said on Tuesday after a meeting of its National Security Council that it is taking some steps that will allow it “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 decision is awkward for the government of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as he risks the fury of one of Britain’s closest allies at just the moment it really needs Trump’s administration to quickly strike a trade deal after Brexit.

Britain is also loathe to insult China, which it likewise needs for future trade deals.

Huawei said it was “reassured” by the British government’s decision.

“This evidence-based decision will result in a more advanced, more secure and more cost-effective telecoms infrastructure that is fit for the future,” Vice President Victor Zhang said. “It gives the UK access to world-leading technology and ensures a competitive market.”

The measures also include keeping Huawei out of all “safety related and safety-critical networks” and banning it from sensitive places such as nuclear sites and military bases.

EU chooses tight scrutiny over blanket ban

The EU will not ban Chinese telecom giant Huawei or any other company in Europe, a top official said on Tuesday, despite intense pressure from Washington to shun the firm over spying fears.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, will officially unveil recommendations to member states on Wednesday, but commissioner Thierry Breton told MEPs that Brussels will choose tight scrutiny over any blanket ban.

“It is not a question of discrimination, it is a question of laying down rules. They will be strict, they will be demanding and of course, we will welcome in Europe all operators who are willing to apply them,” he said.

‘Toolbox’ of recommendations

The EU, while never explicitly naming the Chinese giant, is struggling to find a middle way to balance Huawei’s huge dominance in the 5G sector with security concerns pressed by Washington.

The proposal is part of a so-called “toolbox” of recommendations that will guide the EU’s 27 post-Brexit member states as they build crucial 5G networks.

A ban on Huawei would ultimately be up to an individual member state, but the commission’s middle road recommendation gives cover to European capitals to resist pleas from Washington.

Huawei is one of the world’s leading network technology suppliers, and one of the few –– along with European telecom companies Nokia and Ericsson –– capable of building 5G networks.

Source: AFP

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