MPs: No Technical Grounds For Huawei Ban

A parliamentary committee has called on the government to publish its review into the country’s telecommunications supply chain by the end of August, as delays to the government’s decision on whether to permit Huawei equipment are having a knock-on impact on the UK’s rollout of 5G networks.

Huawei’s role in the UK is a key issue in the government’s study, which was originally scheduled for publication in the spring, and the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee said there were no technical grounds for a complete ban on the Chinese firm.

However, the committee acknowledged there may be “geopolitical or ethical grounds” for a government ban.

The UK and other countries have been under sustained pressure from the US in recent months to ban Huawei 5G equipment, amidst broader trade tensions between the US and China.

Security concerns

In May the US placed Huawei on a national security blacklist, although the US administration has indicated more recently it will soon allow companies to recommence sales to the Shenzhen-based firm.

“We have found no evidence from our work to suggest that the complete exclusion of Huawei from the UK’s telecommunications network would, from a technical point of view, constitute a proportionate response to the security threat posed by foreign suppliers,” the Parliamentary committee said, following an evidence session in which it heard from experts and from Huawei itself.

The committee said its views are shared by UK mobile operators.

Vodafone, Three and other operators have said a ban on Huawei could delay the UK’s 5G rollout by years.

“Subject to: restrictions on access to highly sensitive elements of the relevant networks; continued close scrutiny; and satisfactory improvements in Huawei’s cyber security in response to the Huawei Cyber Security Centre’s Oversight Broad – there are no technical grounds for excluding Huawei entirely from the UK’s 5G or other telecommunications networks,” MPs said.

Political factors

They said the government should exclude Huaei from “the core of UK telecommunications networks”, while giving clear grounds for doing so that could in future be applied to other firms.

Referring to a recent report from the GCHQ-led Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre that found “significant technical issues” in Huawei’s engineering practices that could create a security risk, MPs said Huawei “must improve the standards of its cybersecurity”.

Huawei has said it plans to spend $2 billion (£1.6bn) over the next five years to remedy the problems.

Committee chair Norman Lamb also acknowledged that political factors may well influence the government’s final decision.

“The Government needs to consider whether the use of Huawei’s technology would jeopardise this country’s ongoing co-operation with our major allies,” Lamb said.

“We are reassured that the UK, unlike others, is taking an evidence-based approach to network security,” Huawei said in a statement.  “Huawei complies with the laws and regulations in all the markets where we operate.”

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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