UK looking to backtrack on Huawei participation in 5G networks: Report

US sanctions and backbenchers that are set to cross the floor and vote against government legislation are reportedly the impetus for the change of course.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

Reports out of London over the weekend said the UK government is set to backtrack on its January decision to permit the involvement of Huawei in the nation's 5G networks.

That decision had limited Huawei to a 35% cap of all radio equipment used and prevented the Chinese giant from supplying any equipment in the core of the network. Additionally, it mandated that Huawei equipment could not be used at sensitive locations such as nuclear sites and military bases.

"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 cybercriminals, or state-sponsored attacks," the UK decision said.

However, reports on Sunday in the UK said the latest round of sanctions on semiconductor use hitting the company via the United States, combined with 59 parliamentary members signing up to an anti-Huawei group that is set to cross the floor to vote against legislation formalising the January decision, have led to Westminster changing course.

The reports said the UK National Cyber Security Agency would be conducting a review that is expected to lead to Huawei being booted from the nation's 5G networks altogether.

"The government decided in January to approve our part in the 5G rollout, because Britain needs the best possible technologies, more choice, innovation and more suppliers, all of which means more secure and more resilient networks," the UK branch of Huawei tweeted in response to the development.

"Our priority has been to help mobile and broadband companies keep Britain connected, which in this current health crisis has been more vital than ever. This is our proven track-record."

Off the back of the UK's decision, Huawei Australia has pushed to have its ban overturned, but both of the country's major parties squashed any talk of that as soon as it appeared.

"They are a high risk vendor. We have been very clear about it," Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said in January.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4 earlier that month, former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the ban was about maintaining availability, not fears of interception.

"It's not a question of saying, Huawei is doing bad things at the moment? The real question is, not looking for a smoking gun, but asking whether this is a loaded gun, and whether you want to have that risk," Turnbull told the BBC.

Turnbull added it was a question of whether a nation wanted to give China the ability to interfere with "one of the most fundamental technological platform forms of your modern economy" in the form of 5G and the Internet of Things.

"The issue is actually not so much a question of interception," he said. "Because increasingly end-to-end encryption means that data that can be intercepted can't be read."

In 2012, long before it was considered cool in Washington to ban Huawei, Australia banned the Chinese telco equipment manufacturer from its National Broadband Network build. It was no surprise then, to see Australia extend the ban to 5G equipment six years later.

Last week, Vodafone Australia said as a result of Australia's ban on Huawei, it would need to replace the Huawei kit used in its transmission network if that equipment handles 5G traffic.

Related Coverage

Facebook comments manifest into real world as neo-luddites torch 5G towers

If science says it isn't a thing, and the government backing that up also says it is a conspiracy, then there is a trust deficit that cannot be overcome.

Huawei P40 Pro, hands on: Another superb Huawei phone, but still missing Google services

Huawei's P40 Pro offers great industrial design and leading-edge cameras, but software limitations make it hard to recommend.

Huawei revenue slightly improves for first quarter of 2020

Profit margin down compared to this time last year, while revenue is up a mere 1.4% on Q1 2019.

Huawei Australia sees 5G ban start to bite as carrier business down 21% for 2019

Net profit and revenue were also down by 78% and 10% respectively.

Editorial standards