The UK will decide by the autumn whether to grant Huawei involvement in the country’s future 5G infrastructure, according to Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan. Meanwhile, the Chinese firm remains confident and its founder recently told EURACTIV that it is “very likely” Huawei products will be used in future UK core 5G networks.
Speaking to the BBC, Morgan said on Tuesday (27 August) that any decision around autumn time would have to be the “right decision” made for the “long term”. She gave no hints as to what the decision might be.
During recent closed-door talks with journalists at Huawei’s headquarters in Shenzhen, its founder Ren Zhengfei said it is “very likely Huawei products will be deployed in the UK’s core networks in the future.”
However, his claim runs counter to the position previously adopted by the UK government, which was to permit Huawei access only to ‘non-core’ aspects of the country’s 5G networks, following a controversial leak of confidential talks on the role of Huawei earlier in the year.
The announcement came as the UK seeks to bolster its 5G clout with a £30 million investment plan in rural connectivity, part of a £200 million funding boost for 5G testbeds across the UK.
For Huawei, Morgan’s announcement on Tuesday did not seem to be of too much concern. In response to the news, a spokesperson from the company told EURACTIV that Huawei will continue to “work with network operators to roll out 5G across Britain” and the company “looks forward to the UK government’s decision in the autumn on our future involvement there.”
The previous UK government, with Jeremy Wright at the helm of the digital portfolio, had remained cautious on the Huawei front, after the company was placed on the US entity list – making it difficult to obtain licenses for American companies to do business with the Chinese telecommunications giant.
Huawei had been put under restrictions for purportedly being “engaged in activities that are contrary to U.S. national security interests,” the US administration says.
However, the firm had been given a temporary reprieve by the US administration, allowing American firms that depend on Huawei products to continue trading.
The postponement of the restrictions was meant to have ended on 19 August. However, US Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, announced an extension of this reprieve period for a further 90 days, while also adding a further 46 Huawei affiliated companies to the US entity list.
Meanwhile, Norman Lamb, the chair of the UK’s Science and Technology Committee, warned Wright in a letter that the “government should mandate the exclusion of Huawei from the core of UK telecommunications networks.”
But Lamb also said that a “complete exclusion” of the company from the UK’s networks would not “constitute a proportionate response to the potential security threat.”
During last weekend’s G7 talks in Biarritz, France, it transpired that US President Donald Trump and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had sat down to discuss Huawei.
Previous to the talks, US National Security Advisor John Bolton had received assurances from the new UK government that British officials would examine the Huawei conundrum from “square one.”
UK officials are “very concerned about not having any compromise in the security of telecommunications in the 5G space,” Bolton told UK reporters earlier this month.
“What they said was ‘we would like to review this and be very sure about our decision and we too are concerned about the security of our 5G telecommunications network’.”
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]