Why UK-Approval of 5G Network is Impossible

Boris-Johnson Released Date to Ease-Lockdown
Boris-Johnson Released Date to Ease-Lockdown

Why UK-Approval of 5G Network is Impossible

Huawei’s place in the U.K.’s 5G network has become one of the most confusing on-off sagas of recent times.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was clear in January that he wanted the Chinese company to provide around a third of the infrastructure, directly opposing the view of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Reports then emerged that Johnson planned to reduce Chinese company Huawei’s involvement in the U.K.’s 5G networks to zero by 2023, following pressure from backbenchers.

Why UK-Approval of 5G Network is Impossible

In a further twist, this could actually be “impossible,” one official told The Times of London, given the extra cost and the extent to which Huawei is embedded within existing British infrastructure.

Equipment provided by Huawei is already used for the core of British 3G networks and some parts of the 4G infrastructure.

So, while there is certainly Huawei to go in negotiations, calls for the Chinese tech giant to actually go are getting louder from both the U.S and inside Westminster.

Will the company really be forced out of the U.K. for good?

Why UK-Approval of 5G Network is Impossible

Huawei was already prevented from providing any of the “core infrastructure” because of security concerns that Chinese authorities would have access—concerns Huawei officials strenuously deny.

But removing it fully could cost the government a lot of money.

“Removing Huawei would seriously delay 5G, costing British economy up to £7bn [$8.5bn],” Victor Zhang, Huawei’s UK chief, told the BBC.

And Britain’s National Security Centre (NCSC) is examining what impact this might have on the U.K. data and phone networks using Huawei’s tech, immediately following the U.S.’s increased sanctions on Huawei.

Why UK-Approval of 5G Network is Impossible

An anonymous official told The Times that ministers were concerned that instructing British Telecom (BT) and other companies to stop using Huaewi would risk slowing progress, as the Chinese company was already so embedded into U.K. infrastructure.

“We’d be asking BT to essentially shred the whole fiber-optic network,” the official told the days .

“It would make the 2025 broadband pledge impossible.”

The government had set a target to deliver full-fiber broadband to all households by 2025, but was not included in the most recent Conservative Party manifesto.

Why UK-Approval of 5G Network is Impossible

It is unlikely, though not impossible, that this former commitment are going to be met.

This also has significant ramifications on the relationship between the U.K. and the U.S.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had already hinted that intelligence sharing might be harmed if the Huawei 5G deal went ahead.

“We will never permit American international security information to go across a network that we don’t have trust and confidence in,” he said in January on a visit to the U.K., adding that the Chinese Communist Party did not have “a technical back door to Huawei. They have the front door.”

Why UK-Approval of 5G Network is Impossible

There is a balance to be struck between the U.K.’s place in the middle (both geographically and politically) between China and the U.S., as there is a feeling that this is a new Cold War.

For now, it’s still unclear what happens to Huawei, which is stuck in the middle of all this.

Huawei Confused Over Reports of Britain’s Plans to scale back Company’s 5G
“As long there’s a firm date by which Huawei are going to be right down to zero—and obviously a date that’s not too far within the future—that’s the foremost important thing,” former cabinet minister Damian Green, who is part of the China Research Group in Parliament.

Why UK-Approval of 5G Network is Impossible

“It’s important because it’ll affect the procurement decisions of U.K. providers, who will know that they can’t bid for contracts using Huawei kit.”

The Cabinet Office is reserving judgment until the NCSC reports back:

“The security and resilience of our networks are of paramount importance,” the cupboard Office said during a statement.

“Following the U.S. announcement of additional sanctions against Huawei, the NCSC is looking carefully at any impact they might need to the U.K.’s networks.”

Why UK-Approval of 5G Network is Impossible

For Johnson, it is a decision between, on the one side, keeping the U.S. and his political party happy while relieving any security concerns and, on the other, getting a 5G system that is likely to be in place more quickly and cheaper to implement, given the current progress.

If it really is “impossible” to remove Huawei any time soon, Johnson will hope that it will be possible to keep everyone happy with a balancing act.


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