Huawei, a Chinese telecommunications company, has become controversial due to its association with Beijing. In January 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson allowed the company to have access to 35 percent of Britain’s network.
While concerns remain over the practicalities of it will be achieved, the UK government has begun looking at alternate providers for 5G.
Under pressure from a cabal of Conservative MPs, security experts, and President Donald Trump himself, Johnson has pulled plans to involve the Chinese telecoms giant in Britain’s 5G network infrastructure, reports suggest.
It emerged that Downing Street was drawing up plans to entirely remove Huawei’s telecoms equipment from British networks by 2023.
But one source told the Times that ministers are considering preventing network operators from procuring Huawei equipment from 2023, rather than forcing them to rip out and replace their existing Huawei kit entirely.
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It was only earlier this year that Huawei had its role in the country’s digital future confirmed.
That decision followed parliamentary assent for the firm to help broaden Britain’s next generation network, so long as its involvement was capped at 35 percent.
On the back of concerns about Chinese state access to British data, Conservative MPs mounted a parliamentary rebellion in March, almost defeating the government in a critical vote on network expansion.
Those fears are echoed by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), who confirmed that soon that a new enquiry will examine Huawei’s UK operation.
Responding to the initial reports of a possible ban, Huawei vice president Victor Zhang said in a statement: “We’ve seen the reports from unnamed sources which simply don’t make sense.
“The government decided in January to approve our part in the 5G rollout, because Britain needs the best possible technologies, more choice, innovation and more suppliers, all of which means more secure and more resilient networks.”
After the news of NCSC’s investigation, Zhang added: “Our priority remains to continue the rollout of 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 ten years.”
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It is feared that an outright ban would mean BT would have overhaul its fibre optic network.
Most of the next-generation networks will in many cases rely on the existing 4G infrastructure, which is supported partly by Huawei, and different vendors’ equipment is not always compatible.
The latest proposed restrictions may also prohibit telcos from using Huawei equipment solely in their 5G networks.
one official said: “Otherwise we’d be asking BT to essentially rip up the entire fibre optic network.
“It would make the 2025 broadband pledge impossible.”
It comes after US President Donald Trump has issued additional sanctions on the company.
A spokesperson for the UK government said: “The security and resilience of our networks is of paramount importance.
“Following the US announcement of additional sanctions against Huawei, the NCSC is looking carefully at any impact they could have to the UK’s networks.”
It also follows Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou suffering a setback in her fight to avoid extradition to the US after a Canadian judge ruled her case could continue.