Frustrated operators? UK not yet in a position to make a decision about Huawei, minister confirms
The British government has confirmed it is not yet ready to make a decision about the involvement of Huawei in the build out of 5G networks in this country.
This confirmation will no doubt irritate mobile operators as they have been demanding that the government makes a firm decision either way. At the moment, all 5G mobile networks in the UK are, (or will) use Huawei equipment.
Meanwhile in other news Huawei has, as expected, axed more than 600 jobs at its US research unit. It took the decision to close the jobs at California-based Futurewei, after President Trump signed an executive order in May that placed the Chinese firm on a trade blacklist, known as an entity list.
The Chinese firm made clear who it blames for the decision, when it said the job cuts were due to “the curtailment of business operations caused by the US.”
But on this side of the pond, the British government has postponed its decision about Huawei, despite the House of Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) saying last week that the next UK prime minister has to make a decision “as a matter of priority”.
Culture secretary Jeremy Wright said the UK had no choice because it is still gauging the impact of US sanctions on Huawei, the Guardian newspaper reported.
Wright was unveiling the government’s telecoms supply chain review on Monday, and he said it would not be “sensible, helpful or responsible” to make a final decision about Huawei’s involvement at this time.
“The government is not yet in a position to decide what involvement Huawei should have in the provision of the UK’s 5G network,” Wright was quoted as saying by the government. “Since the US government’s announcement, we have sought clarity on the extent and implications, but the position is not yet entirely clear. Until it is, we have concluded it would be wrong to make specific decisions in relation to Huawei.”
“The decision we take will be in the best interest of the UK,” Wright said. “We will do so as soon as possible.”
“The future of our digital economy depends on trust in its safety and security,” Wright was quoted as saying. “We need to have the right measures in place to make our telecoms supply chain both safe and secure.”
The Chinese firm was quick to respond to the Government decision, but mostly welcomed the UK’s measured approach.
“The UK Government’s Supply Chain Review gives us confidence that we can continue to work with network operators to rollout 5G across the UK,” said Hauwei in a statement emailed to Silicon UK.
“The findings are an important step forward for 5G and full fibre broadband networks in the UK and we welcome the Government’s commitment to ‘a diverse telecoms supply chain’ and ‘new legislation to enforce stronger security requirements in the telecoms sector’,” it added. “After 18 years of operating in the UK, we remain committed to supporting BT, EE, Vodafone and other partners build secure, reliable networks.”
“The evidence shows excluding Huawei would cost the UK economy £7 billion and result in more expensive 5G networks, raising prices for anyone with a mobile device,” the Chinese firm said. “On Friday, Parliament’s Intelligence & Security Committee said limiting the market to just two telecoms suppliers would reduce competition, resulting in less resilience and lower security standards. They also confirmed that Huawei’s inclusion in British networks would not affect the channels used for intelligence sharing.”
The US government has repeatedly warned against using any Huawei equipment on national security grounds.
Yet in April the UK’s National Security Council (NSC) had agreed to allow Huawei limited access to help build parts of the 5G network such as antennas and other “non-core” infrastructure.
Huawei has consistently denied it poses a national security risk, and in June the Chinese ambassador to the UK warned that excluding Huawei from Britain’s 5G network “sends a very bad signal” to other Chinese firms looking to invest in UK.
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