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AFP
January 29, 2020

United States ‘disappointed’: UK approves restricted 5G role for Huawei

World

AFP
January 29, 2020

Britain on Tuesday gave the green light to a limited role for Chinese telecoms giant Huawei in the country’s 5G network, in a decision it said was necessary for developing its future digital economy but one that left the United States “disappointed” after it called for a total ban.

Even though London decided that “high risk vendors” would be excluded from Britain’s “sensitive” core infrastructure, a US official insisted there was “no safe option for untrusted vendors to control any part of a 5G network”, which offers almost instantaneous data transfer.

Washington has banned Huawei from the rollout of the fifth generation mobile network because of concerns that the firm could be under the control of Beijing, an allegation it strongly denies.

The announcement came as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo prepared to meet British Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week for talks in London likely to focus on Huawei and as Britain looks for a trade deal with Washington after Brexit.

The United States had threatened to limit intelligence-sharing with London in the event of Huawei winning a UK role. Some analysts assessed approval for the Chinese firm could affect any future UK-US trade deal.

But Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told parliament: “Nothing in this review affects this country’s ability to share highly sensitive intelligence data over highly secured network.

“GCHQ (Britain’s cybersecurity agency) have categorically confirmed that how we construct our 5G and full-fibre public telecoms network has nothing to do with how we share classified data.”

London’s decision -- following a meeting of the National Security Council chaired by Johnson -- came shortly after Brussels said it would also allow Huawei a limited 5G role in the European Union.

Brussels and London are both grappling to find a middle way to balance Huawei’s huge dominance in the 5G sector with security concerns.

“We want world-class connectivity as soon as possible but this must not be at the expense of our national security,” said Britain’s Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan. “High risk vendors never have been and never will be in our most sensitive networks,” she stressed.

Research group GlobalData said a limited role for Huawei allowed “the UK to bow in part” to the US. “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.