The government has announced it’s to review Huawei’s role in developing 5G networks across the UK, mere months after giving the Chinese firm the green light.
Huawei has found itself contending with allegations of state-sponsored spying from countries around the world, with some of the strongest accusations coming from the USA. Most recently, a limit was placed on the number of chips Huawei was able to purchase in America – a decision its lawmakers said was made on “national security grounds”.
In light of these recent developments, the UK government will undertake a fresh review into Huawei’s suitability to develop part of the nation’s 5G network. This could pave the way for a U-turn on the decision reached in January – in a bid to not only keep UK networks secure but also smooth out UK-US relations, which are paramount with post-Brexit trade deals to negotiate. However, doing so could put strain on the UK’s relationship with China.
Though Huawei was given approval to help build 5G infrastructure across the UK, it did come with caveats. For example, the firm was not allowed to supply the most sensitive parts of the network, and was only ever able to account for 35% of the total infrastructure of any given network’s periphery (with technology from other firms such as Nokia and Ericsson making up the remainder).
Though security will be the paramount concern, scaling back Huawei’s presence within the UK will come at a cost. If a blanket ban were to be introduced, all sites currently using Huawei technology would need to be visited by technicians for it to be manually removed. Then, replacements made by other companies would need to be installed – and this could lead to road closures and a tsunami of planning requests, as the alternatives to Huawei’s equipment is significantly larger and more unwieldy.
In total, this work could seriously delay the roll out of 5G connectivity, and cost somewhere in the region of £7 billion.
Following the announcement of a new review, Huawei vice-president Victor Zhang told the BBC: “Our priority remains to continue the rollout of a reliable and secure 5G networks across Britain.
“We are happy to discuss with NCSC any concerns they may have and hope to continue the close working relationship we have enjoyed for the last 10 years.”