Government has made firm decision on Huawei’s involvement in UK’s 5G roll-out, and the decision is not likely to be reopened, senior official says
Huawei’s continued presence in the UK’s 5G sector looks to be a bit more secure after a senior government official said the government is unlikely to re-open its 5G decision.
In January, after much pressure from the United States and lots of delays, the UK government finally approved Huawei as a “high-risk vendor” but said it could play a “limited” role in the UK’s 5G networks.
That meant that Huawei would be excluded from sensitive geographic locations such as nuclear sites and military bases; and have a 35 percent cap in periphery (non-sensitive parts) of the 5G network.
The core of a mobile network is generally considered to be where the voice and other data is routed across various sub-networks and computer servers to ensure it reaches its destination.
The mobile network’s edge or periphery meanwhile is considered to be the actual radio equipment such as base stations and antennas, which link individual smartphones back to the core mobile network.
But since the British decision, anger has grown in Western circles at China’s alleged misinformation campaign during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Last month Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry tweeted the possibility that the ‘US military brought the virus to Wuhan’, and an official government mouthpiece has alleged that Italy was responsible for the pandemic.
There is also disbelief about the scale of the Coronavirus pandemic in China after it first broke out in the city of Wuhan in December.
Various media reports have suggested that Chinese authorities have dramatically under reported the number of Covid-19-related deaths.
Senior Tories led by Iain Duncan-Smith have also threatened a Commons showdown this summer with the Prime Minister to try to limit Huawei’s access to the end of 2022.
The Commons defence committee also plans to assess the security risks posed by Huawei equipment.
Uneasy at the growing pressure, Huawei last week published an open letter to the government, warning that it would be doing a ‘disservice’ to the country if it were excluded from its 5G role.
And now Reuters has reported that the foreign ministry’s top official does not believe the decision will be changed.
Asked whether he would advise the foreign minister to try to change the government’s position on Huawei, Simon McDonald, permanent under secretary and head of the diplomatic service at the foreign ministry, reportedly told lawmakers: “As you know … the government decided to proceed with an investment but with very strict conditions … As far as I know that … is a firm decision and is not being reopened.”
“China is a very important partner of the United Kingdom and I think it’s compatible to proceed with the Huawei decision and have the strategically independent relationship that I have been talking about,” he reportedly added.
EE’s owner BT last week said that the removal of Huawei equipment from EE’s ‘core mobile network’ has been delayed by two years.
BT had in December 2018 said it would take just two years to remove Huawei equipment from its core network, and said it would be achieved by 2021.
But BT has now said that “100% of core mobile traffic” will be on its new Ericsson-built equipment only by 2023.
It should be remembered that for 5G networks, three of the UK’s largest wireless providers (EE, Vodafone, and Three) all used Huawei equipment to build their 5G networks.
The only exception to this was O2, which instead opted to use 5G equipment from Ericsson and Nokia right from the start.
Since the Coronavirus pandemic, mobile data usage in the UK has soared by 50 percent or more.
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