Huawei says UK’s ‘own interests’ at stake in decision on whether to allow it to help build 5G networks, warning of economic losses in the tens of billions
Huawei has emphasised its “ongoing commitment” to providing connectivity technologies in the UK, as the Chinese firm marks 20 years of presence in the British market.
The company expressed its views on the internet and in full-page advertisements in UK newspapers this week, as a new government review threatens to reduce or remove its participation in building 5G networks in the country.
“We’ve been here for 20 years and were integral in building the 3G and 4G networks we all use every day,” said Victor Zhang, vice president of Huawei and head of its UK operations, in a statement.
“Today’s letter underlines Huawei’s ongoing commitment to improving connectivity for everyone in the UK.
“As a private company, 100 percent owned by employees, our priority has been to help mobile and broadband companies build a better-connected UK.”
The US has taken aggressive measures against Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer, which it considers a national security threat.
US regulators last month said they would alter export laws in an effort to cut off Huawei’s access to microprocessors manufactured outside the US, but using equipment or software made by American firms.
Huawei has stockpiled up to two years’ worth of critical US-made chips, such as Intel CPUs, amidst the crackdown, Nikkei Asian Review reported.
As a result, the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said it would review Huawei’s status.
In January the agency declared Huawei to be a “high risk” vendor, leading the government to limit its market share in UK 5G networks to 35 percent.
That could be reduced further or to zero if the NCSC changes its findings on Huawei.
London-based bank HSBC said over the weekend it could face reprisals by China if the UK takes action against Huawei.
China’s ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, recently told business leaders the country views Britain’s position on Huawei as “a litmus test of whether Britain is a true and faithful partner”, the Sunday Times reported.
Zhang told the BBC the advertising campaign aims to give people facts amidst the “noise” surrounding the company.
He said he hoped the UK would take an “evidence and fact-based approach”.
He added that the economic impact of 5G delays caused by excluding Huawei could potentially run into the tens of billions of pounds in lost productivity benefits.
“We don’t have time to delay this,” Zhang said.
Operators have said that if they are required to use non-Huawei 5G equipment they will also be required to remove existing Huawei 4G equipment, at significant cost.
Huawei entered the UK market in 2010, winning a major BT contract five years later.
Its advertising campaign highlights its support for British universities and other institutions, which could be affected by the company’s exclusion.
Ambassador Liu reportedly said China’s support for British infrastructure projects such as the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant or the High Speed 2 railway could also be affected.
“We believe the UK will definitely review this based on the facts and the evidence, because the UK will take its own interests very seriously,” Zhang told the BBC.