UK Could Delay 5G Rollout Because Of Security Concerns – Minister

The United Kingdom could delay the rollout of 5G networks in this country because of security concerns, a senior government minister has admitted.

The Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright added that he would not trade off the economic benefit of using cheap kit with security risk.

“There is certainly the possibility of a delay in the process of the roll out of 5G,” he was quoted by Reuters as saying, “If you want to do 5G fastest then you do that without any consideration for security.”

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo. Image credit: US government

Pompeo warning

“But we not prepared to do that,” said Wright. “So I don’t exclude the possibility that there will be some delay.”

“The primary intention of this process is to get the security of the network right,” he added.

The comments by Wright came during a brief visit to the UK by the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who warned the UK not to ‘go wobbly’ over 5G security – paraphrasing what Margaret Thatcher once famously told late US President George H.W. Bush.

Mike Pompeo has previously warned allies that “America may not be able to operate in certain environments if there is Huawei technology adjacent to that”.

But now he has gone much further, after the UK’s National Security Council (NSC) had agreed to allow Huawei limited access to help build parts of the network such as antennas and other “non-core” infrastructure.

The leaking of that decision caused huge controversy within government circles, and eventually led to the firing of UK’s defence secretary Gavin Williamson after an internal investigation pointed to him as being the guilty party for leaking the 5G decision about Huawei Technologies – a charge he strenuously denies.

“Now is not the time for either of us to go wobbly,” Pompeo was quoted by Reuters as saying in a speech about the so-called special relationship.

China threat

“In China, we face a new kind of challenge; an authoritarian regime that’s integrated economically into the West in ways that the Soviet Union never was,” Pompeo reportedly said.

“Ask yourself: would the Iron Lady be silent when China violates the sovereignty of nations through corruption or coercion? Would she allow China to control the internet of the future?” Pompeo said.

“Insufficient security will impede the United States’ ability to share certain information within trusted networks” he added. “This is just what China wants – to divide Western alliances through bits and bytes, not bullets and bombs.”

Pompeo also said that China steals sensitive intellectual property and sensitive commercial data in Europe, Asia, and the United States, and he singled out Huawei.

“The Chinese government can rightfully demand access to data flowing through Huawei and ZTE systems. Why would anyone grant such power to a regime that has already grossly violated cyberspace?” he asked.

“We know 5G is a sovereign decision – but it must be made with the broader strategic context in mind,” he said.

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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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