UK Not To Ban Huawei Kit – Report

The United Kingdom could be about to break ranks with the United States amid reports that officials GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Council (NCSC) do not support a total ban on Huawei equipment.

The shock decision was first reported by the Financial Times, and it flies in the face of decisions taken by Australia, New Zealand and the United States to ban the use of Huawei kit for 5G networks.

It should be remembered that these countries are part of the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence-sharing network that consists of the USA, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Huawei decision?

Other Western nations are also considering bans and a British decision not to ban Huawei kit would be a hugely significant setback for the US campaign to stop nations from using the kit because of national security concerns.

The FT article quotes two people familiar with the NCSC conclusion, which has yet to be made public.

Reportedly, the NCSC believes that there are ways to limit the risks from using Huawei in future 5G networks.

Essentially, it is reported that the NCSC did not think it was necessary to completely bar Huawei from British networks. Instead it believes that risks could be managed by testing the products at a special laboratory overseen by intelligence officials.

“We don’t favour a complete ban. It’s not that simple,” one of the sources told Reuters on Monday.

Meanwhile one person familiar with the debate told the FT that the British conclusion would “carry great weight” with European leaders, as the UK has access to sensitive US intelligence via its membership of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing network.

“Other nations can make the argument that if the British are confident of mitigation against national security threats then they can also reassure their public and the US administration that they are acting in a prudent manner in continuing to allow their telecommunications service providers to use Chinese components as long as they take the kinds of precautions recommended by the British,” the person reportedly said.

Germany was last week reportedly planning to consult with telecoms operators and network vendors on how to handle the national security implications of procurement for next-generation 5G mobile networks.

Huawei exclusions

The British government meanwhile is currently conducting a review into telecoms security, and its conclusions will be announced in March.

However the British government had already warned telcos against using equipment makers such as Huawei when rolling out 5G networks.

BT then pledged to remove Huawei equipment from the next-generation emergency services communication network it is developing for the government

Poland has recently banned Huawei equipment from its 5G network following the arrest last month of an alleged spy who had been employed by the Chinese company.

The US government has repeatedly asked its allies not to use equipment from Huawei, and a large number of nations have signalled their intention to ban the Chinese kit.

Huawei for its part, has always denied claims about the security of its products.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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