28 January 2020
By Adam Vaughan
The UK government has decided to allow technology from Chinese company Huawei to be used in the country’s super-fast 5G network, despite intense pressure from the US for a ban. The decision, made by prime minister Boris Johnson this week, was branded a major defeat for the US.
Huawei is the world’s biggest producer of telecoms equipment , but critics have warned that allowing the firm to supply the kit for the UK’s 5G infrastructure is a national security risk, and the US threatened to cut off intelligence sharing if the deal went ahead.
That didn’t prevent the UK giving Huawei access, albeit with several limitations. The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre will tell telecoms operators that Huawei – and any other “high-risk vendors” – must be excluded from “core” functions that manage the network, as well as critical national infrastructure. The firm’s technology will also be barred from nuclear and military sites.
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Huawei can only contribute a maximum of 35 per cent of the peripheral network infrastructure, which connects devices to cell phone masts. That figure will be kept under review and the government said it would legislate at the earliest opportunity to mitigate any risks.
“It is necessary to have tight restrictions on the presence of high-risk vendors,” said the UK’s digital secretary Nicky Morgan in a statement. Huawei said it was “reassured” by the decision, which would “keep the 5G roll-out on track”. Mobile UK, the trade body for cellular networks, welcomed the move, which it said gave the industry access to the “latest and most innovative technologies”.
However, US Republican Newt Gingrich quickly tweeted: “[The] British decision to accept Huawei for 5G is a major defeat for the United States.”
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