Ahead of EU announcement on secure deployment of #5G, UK gives #Huawei the green light

| January 28, 2020

Today (28 January) the UK announced that it had concluded its Telecoms Supply Chain Review and had concluded that what it describes as ‘high-risk vendors’ in the UK’s 5G and gigabit-capable networks would be subject to restrictions.

The UK’s announcement comes ahead of a European Commission communication on 5G that will be launched tomorrow. Executive Vice-President Vestager, Commissioner Breton and Josip Bilaver, Croatian Secretary of State for Infrastructure, will present their communication on the secure deployment of the 5G in the EU and on the toolbox to ensure the security of 5G networks.

While Huawei is not explicitly mentioned in the government’s statement, it is described as a high-risk vendor in the accompanying blog of the Technical Director, National Cyber Security Centre, Dr Ian Levy.

The UK’s decision will probably be well received in Brussels and in EU countries that are already working with Huawei. The UK has taken its position in the face of heavy pressure from the United States to ban Huawei completely.

A Huawei spokesperson welcomed the UK’s decision:  “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. We will build on this strong track record, supporting our customers as they invest in their 5G networks, boosting economic growth and helping the UK continue to compete globally.

“We agree a diverse vendor market and fair competition are essential for network reliability and innovation, as well as ensuring consumers have access to the best possible technology.”

The UK based its review on an evidence-based study carried out by the UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). The NSCS produced guidance for industry in relation to high-risk vendors. The guidance will determine whether a vendor is a high risk, the precise restrictions it advises should be applied to high-risk vendors in the UK’s 5G and full-fibre networks, and what mitigation measures operators should take if using high-risk vendors.

The responsible minister Baroness Morgan stated: “To ensure the security of 5G and full-fibre networks, it is both necessary and proportionate to place tight restrictions on the presence of any vendors that are identified as higher risk.”

Dr Levy wrote: “We believe the totality of the measures announced today will ensure the UK’s telecoms networks are appropriately secure into the future regardless of the vendors used. While every country will have its own definition of a high-risk vendor, we need to make sure that the UK does not have to rely on a high-risk vendor and certainly that we don’t become nationally dependent. That needs a plan to diversify the market along with actions to improve product security across all vendors, improve operator security and create a framework to manage vendors of different risk profiles over the coming years.”

Huawei is the largest vendor in the UK supply chain; as it is a Chinese organization, albeit a private one, it could be subject to the direction of the Chinese state under the law, this has been a cause of concern to some. Huawei robustly rejected these claims, saying that there is no interference. In May 2019, the US Department of Commerce put Huawei and 68 affiliated entities on the ‘Entity List’ – a move that means US companies will now have to apply for a licence to sell technology to them. This may have implications for the market as a whole.

There are also concerns that Huawei benefits from access to a large home market in China, which places barriers to foreign suppliers. The Chinese government’s industrial policies have accelerated the growth of Huawei through subsidies, R&D funding and supportive policies.

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Category: A Frontpage, Economy, EU, EU, European Commission, Politics, UK

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