The United Kingdom Government are debating on the roles that would be played by Chinese tech giant Huawei in Britain’s 5G network, as pressure mounts on security concerns allowing vendors deemed ‘high risk’ into such a national issue.
The United States who share intelligence with the United Kingdom are one of those that has expressed their worries, and had earlier warned about deals involving Chinese companies and Huawei being one of those companies, with this latest development, will certainly give President Trump much concern, security-wise.
President Trump who has been very vocal in his trade war with China and a possibility of sanctioning those dealing with Chinese companies who have been blacklisted might see the move has a strong challenge (a possible setback if you like) from one of its most trusted allies.
The US warned that British sovereignty would be put at risk by the move. It has also issued threats over an impact on intelligence sharing.
The US has long pressed Britain to avoid the firm when seeking equipment for 5G network amid security concerns. But with this move, it seems the UK with a few days left to exit the European Union, are ignoring all concerns from the United States, while at the same time, taking all measures to make sure their security is not compromised in anyway.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson who chaired a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC), to discuss the 5G network with Huawei being considered, agreed that the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) should issue guidance to UK Telecoms operators on high-risk vendors following the conclusions of the Telecoms Supply Chain Review
In a statement, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said such vendors, deemed “high risk”, should be:
- Excluded from all safety-related and safety-critical networks in Critical National Infrastructure
- Excluded from security-critical “core” functions, the sensitive part of the network
- Excluded from sensitive geographic locations, such as nuclear sites and military bases
- Limited to a minority presence of no more than 35% in the periphery of the network, known as the access network, which connects devices and equipment to mobile phone masts
The implementation of 5G network is expected to bring with it download speeds 10 times faster than what 4G currently offers.
The prime minister has long talked of the “technological progress” he hopes the new network could enable, which coincides with his government’s “levelling up” strategy in regards to nationwide infrastructure.
Culture Secretary Baroness Morgan said: “We want world-class connectivity as soon as possible but this must not be at the expense of our national security.
“High-risk vendors never have been and never will be in our most sensitive networks.
“The Government has reviewed the supply chain for telecoms networks and concluded today it is necessary to have tight restrictions on the presence of high-risk vendors.”
“This is a UK-specific solution for UK-specific reasons and the decision deals with the challenges we face right now.
It not only paves the way for secure and resilient networks, with our sovereignty over data protected, but it also builds on our strategy to develop a diversity of suppliers.
We can now move forward and seize the huge opportunities of 21st-century technology”.
The company’s vice-president Victor Zhang said:
“Huawei is reassured by the UK Government’s confirmation that we can continue working with our customers to keep the 5G roll-out on track.
“This evidence-based decision will result in a more advanced, more secure and more cost-effective telecoms infrastructure that is fit for the future.
“It gives the UK access to world-leading technology and ensures a competitive market.
“We have supplied cutting-edge technology to telecoms operators in the UK for more than 15 years.”
Expanding in its evaluation following the decision, the National Cyber Security Centre stressed that it was “important to avoid the situation in which the UK becomes nationally dependent on a particular supplier”.
“Without government intervention, the NCSC considers there to be a realistic likelihood that due to commercial factors the UK would become ‘nationally dependent’ on Huawei within three years.”
It said national dependence on a high-risk vendor would present a “significant national security risk”.
Huawei’s role in the UK’s telecoms system has been subject to oversight since 2010.
The analysis said: “Due to the UK’s mitigation strategy, which includes HCSEC as an essential component, our assessment is that the risk of Trojan functionality in Huawei equipment remains manageable.
“Placing ‘backdoors’ in any Huawei equipment supplied into the UK is not the lowest risk, easiest to perform or most effective means for the Chinese state to perform a major cyber attack on UK telecoms networks today.”
The decision puts the PM on course for a clash with many Tory MPs as well as the US.
President Trump’s administration has lobbied against the UK allowing Huawei access.