UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced after a meeting with the National Security Council that the UK has decided to let Chinese technology giant Huawei have a “limited” role in constructing the country’s 5G network.
A Huawei company logo is pictured at the Shenzhen International Airport in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China in July. (Photo: Agencies)
Johnson and his most senior ministers agreed to limited involvement for Huawei at the meeting. According to The Guardian, Huawei is still designated a “high-risk vendor” but will be given the opportunity to build non-core elements of Britain’s 5G network. Huawei will be banned from operating at sensitive sites such as nuclear and military facilities, and its share of the market will be capped at 35 percent.
BT, the largest provider of fixed-line, broadband and mobile services in the UK, urged the government to approve Huawei because using Huawei is cheaper. According to the BBC, BT warned that excluding Huawei would cost vast amounts of money requiring compensation from the government. Some also feared that banning Huawei could have delayed 5G rollout by two to three years, increased the cost to consumers and dented economic growth.
However, some UK officials are concerned that as a Chinese company, Huawei is under the control of Chinese government that may use its technology for “surveillance and even or even sabotage,” despite Huawei continuously saying this is impossible.
More pressure came from the US. The US tried to persuade the UK not to use Huawei technology, and the US government said it would “review intelligence sharing if the UK does use Huawei.” The BBC said the US has taken a hard line because it knows the UK decision has global significance. If the UK approves the use of Huawei, many other countries may follow. The Daily Mail said the UK’s decision “defies US fury.”
Victor Zhang, the vice-president of Huawei, said, “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. 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.”
“We have supplied cutting-edge technology to telecoms operators in the UK for more than 15 years. We will build on this strong track record, supporting our customers as they invest in their 5G networks, boosting economic growth and helping the UK continue to compete globally,” Zhang said.
This decision over Huawei’s role was due to be made months ago, but was delayed by leaks and elections.