The British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has decided to include Huawei on Tuesday in the roster of companies that will make up the future 5G network of the United Kingdom, although yes, with limitations. This is the first great example of where its British foreign policy will go once Brexit is consummated at midnight this Friday and the decision has disappointed the United States.
Johnson has drawn up a plan that does not exclude anyone, but leaves “high-risk suppliers,” that is, Huawei (although they are not expressly citing it), out of critical locations, such as nuclear power plants and military barracks. Their participation will also not reach the “core” of the infrastructure and will be limited to 35% in the non-critical points of the network (base stations and antennas) and for fixed full fiber networks.
“This is a solution specifically designed for the United Kingdom for specific reasons and will help to overcome the challenges we are facing at the moment,” said the Secretary of Communications Nicky Morgan after the meeting held by the National Security Council chaired by Boris Johnson.
In a statement made to Reuters on condition of anonymity, a senior US administration official has admitted to being “disappointed” by the British decision. “There is no safe option to trust providers that are not trusted for any part of the 5G network, we will seek to cooperate with the United Kingdom to exclude unsafe providers from 5G networks,” he has advanced.
The disagreement between London and Washington is already being seen in some US media such as Business Insider, They headline that Boris Johnson challenges Trump by giving Huawei the green light to develop Britain’s 5G network. The London Executive had received strong pressure from the US in recent years to exclude the Chinese company for fear that it would help the Chinese government in espionage work, something that the multinational has repeatedly denied. The US administration had previously warned that if London gave Huawei a role it could de-escalate cooperation on intelligence issues.
Similarly, this disagreement comes a few weeks before the US and UK governments sit down to negotiate a post-Brexit free trade agreement. US Congressman Mike Gallagher has assured the BBC that allowing Huawei to develop the UK’s 5G network would frustrate the UK’s chances for a comprehensive free trade agreement with the US.
For his part, the vice president of Huawei, Victor Zhang, has stated that he is “calm” after the British decision to allow the company to continue working on the country’s 5G. “This fact-based decision will result in a more advanced, safer and more cost-efficient telecommunications infrastructure that will be ready for the future,” he said.
The Chinese company recalls that they have been supplying “cutting edge technology” to UK telecommunications operators for more than 15 years. “We have built this strong track record by supporting our customers in their investment in 5G networks, driving economic growth and helping the UK remain globally competitive,” added Zhang. Huawei has also assured that it agrees that “a market with a diversity of suppliers and fair competition are essential to generate trust and drive innovation in the network, ensuring that consumers have access to the best possible technology.”
Vodafone and EE (from BT) are two of the operators that cooperate with Huawei in the United Kingdom, and which will now have to reduce their dependence on the Chinese giant, since more than 35% of their radio access network equipment was manufactured by this company. “Vodafone UK uses a mix of equipment from Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia for its 4G and 5G towers, we continue to believe that the use of different providers is the best way to safeguard the service provided to telephone customers”, they have added from the operator.
All four operators – EE, O2, Three and Vodafone – have launched 5G services over the past six months, all using Huawei’s 5G kit, according to the FT. Limitations to the Chinese company on its participation in full fiber networks could also have an impact on companies such as BT and Virgin Media.
The British Communications Secretary has specified that “high-risk providers are those who pose the greatest threat to the security and resilience of UK telecommunications networks.” In this sense, the United Kingdom National Security Council has indicated that Huawei “has always been considered high risk by the Government” due to its strategic importance due to its high market share, its Chinese nationality, which, by virtue of the laws of the Asian giant, could lead it to act against British interests, reports Europa Press.
Dimitris Mavrakis, a telecommunications analyst at ABI Research, said that the decision taken by the UK government is “a good compromise to alleviate security concerns and ensure that the country’s 5G market does not suffer damage. Furthermore, it assumes there will be a minimal disruption to ongoing 5G implementation plans. ” The operators had pressured the Boris Johnson so that in the totally ban Huawei, as that drastic measure would force them to stop their plans and make the deployment of their networks more expensive.
UK authorities rely on companies such as Samsung and NEC to enter the UK telecommunications market, which would increase competition in a market where Huawei basically competes with Ericsson and Nokia.
The United Kingdom is part of the Anglo-Saxon security alliance known as Five eyes, along with the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Of those five members of the organization, the US and its ocean partners have excluded Huawei from their respective telecommunications infrastructures.
Meanwhile, the European Commissioner for Industry, Thierry Breton, assured a few days ago that the European Commission will not exclude the Chinese manufacturer in principle from the development of the 5G network, although it will set “strict rules.” “It is not about discrimination, it is simply about setting rules. They will be strict, demanding and, of course, we will welcome in Europe all operators who want to apply them.”