UK sets conditions for China’s Huawei to supply 5G network

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday set terms and conditions for China’s Huawei to supply network for Britain’s 5G mobile network.
Huawei 5G New ZealandBoris Johnson today ruled that high-risk vendors would be excluded from the sensitive core of networks, and there would a 35 percent cap on their involvement in the non-sensitive parts.

While the British government did not mention Huawei by name, a statement from its communications ministry said high-risk vendors would be excluded from all critical networks and sensitive locations such as nuclear sites and military bases.

“This is a UK-specific solution for UK-specific reasons and the decision deals with the challenges we face right now,” Communications Secretary Nicky Morgan said following a meeting of the National Security Council chaired by Johnson.

UK’s Digital Secretary Baroness Morgan said high risk vendors should be:

# Excluded from safety related and safety critical networks in Critical National Infrastructure

# Excluded from security critical core functions, the sensitive part of the network

# Excluded from sensitive geographic locations, such as nuclear sites and military bases

# Limited to a minority presence of no more than 35 percent in the periphery of the network, known as the access network, which connect devices and equipment to mobile phone masts

The decision will dismay President Donald Trump’s administration which fears China could use Huawei to steal secrets and which has warned that if London gives Huawei a role then it could scale back intelligence cooperation, Reuters reported.

“Huawei is reassured by the UK government’s confirmation that we can continue working with our customers to keep the 5G roll-out on track,” said Victor Zhang, vice president at Huawei.

“This evidence-based decision will result in a more advanced, more secure and more cost-effective telecoms infrastructure that is fit for the future. It gives the UK access to world-leading technology and ensures a competitive market,” Victor Zhang said.

British government took informed advice from their security advisors and telecoms service providers regarding this contentious issue and not submitting to the pressure induced by geopolitical tactics. This move will encourage other governments to take similar initiatives and welcome Huawei back to the list of key suppliers and innovators in the 5G era, Dimitris Mavrakis, research director at ABI Research, said.

The decision is a good compromise between alleviating security concerns and making sure that the 5G UK market is not harmed. It also means there will be minimal disruption to existing 5G rollout plans.

ABI Research said it is important to note that the Huawei ban has nothing to do with security for several reasons: First, Huawei has already been well deployed for 4G and even 5G across the UK. Second, even if Huawei is blocked for 5G, how can anyone guarantee that security-sensitive communications will go over these non-Huawei 5G networks, and not Huawei 4G networks?

The fact that Huawei is well deployed for 5G in the UK means that it would be a massive disruption to stop or worse, remove this infrastructure. This could set UK operators years behind in the 5G market.

Globaldata’s technology editor Lucy Ingham says: “Huawei will not be permitted to be used for more than 35 percent of the non-core infrastructure. At present, 28 percent of 5G infrastructure in the UK has been made by Huawei.

Despite security concerns from the US and others, the UK already has too much Huawei technology built into its 5G network and the 3G and 4G networks that underpin it. A total ban would have required massive amounts of infrastructure to be torn out at eye-watering expense, and would have set the UK’s 5G rollout back by years, Lucy Ingham said.

Baroness Nicky Morgan, in a written statement to the House of Lords, rejected US concerns that the inclusion of Huawei in UK 5G infrastructure would jeopardise the country’s role in the Five Eyes intelligence sharing community.