Saturday, 29 February 2020

UK govt leaning ever closer to permitting Huawei

by Harry Baldock, Total Telecom
Thursday 23 January 20

While no final decision has yet been made, anonymous reports suggest officials have formally recommended Huawei be permitted to work on non-core aspects of the UK’s 5G network

Despite the best efforts of the US, it appears that the UK is leaning further and further towards allowing Huawei to play a role in the country’s 5G rollout. According to Reuters, senior UK officials have proposed that Huawei be granted “limited” access to non-core parts of the network. This stance closely mirrors that of the provisional decision made by Theresa May&rsquo…

Despite the best efforts of the US, it appears that the UK is leaning further and further towards allowing Huawei to play a role in the country’s 5G rollout.

According to Reuters, senior UK officials have proposed that Huawei be granted “limited” access to non-core parts of the network. This stance closely mirrors that of the provisional decision made by Theresa May’s government last year.

“The technical and policy guidance hasn’t changed. Now it is down to a political calculation,” said one of Reuter’s anonymous sources. 

This news also comes not long after Britain’s two largest operators, BT and Vodafone, revealed they would lobby the government to argue against a complete ban. 

Both of these companies currently use Huawei equipment in their 5G networks, albeit to different extents, and a total ban would mandate the removal of said equipment – a monumental undertaking given the network’s scale, exhausting valuable resources which the operators would presumably rather see spent in furthering their national 5G ambitions.

Naturally, such a decision would have political ramifications for the perhaps not-so-special UK–US relationship, with the US recently threatening to limit intelligence sharing with countries that do not bar Huawei.

Nonetheless, this “limited” role appears to be something of a compromise of sorts, attempting to please both national telcos as well as political interests across the pond. Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom today said that the UK–US relationship was “strong” enough to survive their disagreements, noting the promise of a post-Brexit trade deal.

However, from the US perspective the capitulation of their closest security partner could set the dominoes falling throughout Europe.

European operators would likely be relieved to see the UK take the lean in this matter, especially sinec such a decision appears to be in line with the upcoming EU guidelines that will recommend against explicitly excluding certain companies.  

“Operators in Europe have already seen the value in this approach,” said Steve Papa, the CEO of Parallel Wireless.

Papa pointed out that operators needed more competition from suppliers to drive innovation, while also noting that mobile operators must consider how they can use more secure and flexible technology. 

Officially, the process remains ongoing, with a final decision expected from the UK government at a meeting of the National Security Council next week.

 

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