#USA #Huawei – Spy thriller or trade war?

| May 28, 2019

The more one looks at the USA’s attempts to block the use of Huawei equipment in the western world’s 5G telecoms networks then the more obvious it is that President Trump’s real motive is less about security but more about protectionism, writes Colin Stevens.

Addressing the issue at the White House, Trump insisted Huawei posed a national security risk and was “very dangerous”, but then hinted at a lifeline for Huawei adding that it was possible a deal with China could help Huawei’s situation. He spoke of opening the door to easing restrictions against Huawei, suggesting the company could be part of a wider trade deal between the US and China.

“If we made a deal, I could imagine Huawei being possibly included in some form or some part of it,” Trump said.

Last week, the US government added Huawei to a list of businesses barred from buying components from companies in the country, which could have severe ramifications for the Chinese company.

Huawei maintains US fears it uses its equipment to spy for the Chinese government are unfounded, and the Chinese government has accused Trump’s administration of bullying the company.

Google and chip designer Arm are two of the major companies that have said they will suspend activities with Huawei.

In addition to Google and Arm, electronics giant Panasonic also initially stated it had stopped shipping certain components to Huawei.

However, the company then issued another statement on its website on 23 May confirming it was proceeding to supply Huawei normally.

Taiwanese chipmaker Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC) also provided Huawei a boost, stating it could continue to deliver semiconductors to the company without infringing on the US ban.

Nikkei Asian Review reported TSMC, which is a major supplier to Huawei, had taken advice from a US law company and concluded its chipmaking would not fall foul of the US restrictions.

Most EU governments have a “different mindset” to the US, with France saying recently that it had no intention of entering a tech war with China.

A similar pragmatic approach has been taken by the UK, jointly testing Huawei equipment for security problems. None has been found.

This is just as well, because the inconvenient truth is that the UK couldn’t launch 5G without Huawei

EE and Vodafone’s forthcoming 5G launches highlight the fundamental fact that the UK telecoms sector can’t afford to launch 5G without Huawei.

The UK’s two biggest mobile network operators have announced that 5G will be arriving in the UK in less than two weeks’ time. Undoubtedly this marks an important milestone in Britain’s connectivity journey. With the arrival of 5G, the country is ushering in the dawn of the gigabit society, heralding a new age of ubiquitous, ultrafast connectivity.

Indeed, Britain will be among the first countries in the world to rollout commercial 5G services at scale, when EE switch on its 5G networks on the 30th May 2019, followed three days later by Vodafone.

BT has been working with Huawei to test 5G networks and Huawei 5G Radio kit for its 5G launch, and believes Huawei’ technology and innovation is ahead of its competitors.

BT’s  CEO said this week  “ a lengthy delay to 5G launches while the Huawei situation is being resolved is not going to benefit UK”

The scale of the BT / EE role out is impressive, with 5G dues to go live in six cities on 30th May. They are London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham, and Manchester.

BT’s 5G deployment plan is for 100+ new 5G sites per month: by end of 2019 to include Bristol, Coventry, Leicester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Liverpool, Hull, Leeds, Newcastle and Glasgow,

In 2020 it will roll out to Aberdeen, Cambridge, Derby, Gloucester, Peterborough, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton, Worcester and Wolverhampton.

Marc Allera, the CEO of BT’s consumer brands: EE, BT and Plusnet  said “The company will, continue to use Huawei, alongside Ericsson, for the radio equipment for its 5G network despite the political debate around the use of the Chinese company’s equipment and its supply chain issues following the move by US authorities to put it on to the entity list.

EE has tested its 5G network using Huawei technology and has had “no indications” from the UK government to change course” . He said the supply chain restrictions were a concern but that the UK would not benefit from a lengthy delay to 5G launches while the situation is being resolved.

“There are so many scenarios and we don’t have any clarity. But we can’t stand still,” he said. “Nothing is crystal clear, but we have to work within that ambiguity.”

BT Group and Vodafone chief technology officers Howard Watson and Scott Petty both warned of massive consequences for 5G if a UK government ban on Huawei comes in.

Speaking at the Mobile News XPO 5G Symposium held at The Hilton on Park Lane on March 14,  Watson said Huawei’s 5G technology was 18 months ahead of that of Ericsson and Nokia.

Watson said: “Huawei has some particular sweet spots, one of which is being very good at modulation techniques and massive MIMO capability. To block that out from us would do a disservice to the UK economy.”

Vodafone chief technology officer Scott Petty said the impact of a ban would be “huge” and detrimental”.

“We run 4G networks using Huawei equipment in parts of our network. You’re talking about hundreds of millions of pounds to replace parts. We can’t deploy 5G without 4G. You can’t run one 5G vendor attached to another 4G vendor, so it will slow down our deployment (of 5G) by 18 months to two years. Any UK government ban forbidding the networks to install Huawei 5G infrastructure would lead to a delay in 5G rollout and a price rise to consumers.”

Nokia Chief Executive Rajeev Suri said on Tuesday that his company could benefit from a U.S. clampdown on Chinese rival Huawei as the race to roll out 5G services heats up. Suri acknowledged that Nokia had been a little slow in getting 5G technology up and running, citing merging its own technology plans with those of acquired Alcatel-Lucent as a reason.

“We are late in 5G by a few weeks to a couple of months,” Suri told the Finnish company’s annual shareholder meeting.

Speaking in Brussels Abraham Liu, Huawei’s Chief Representative to the EU Institutions, said Huawei, the world’s second biggest smartphone maker, was “ready to go the extra mile” in order to satisfy ongoing concerns security and safety concerns of its activities.

“Huawei is the unparalleled leader in 5G. We are ready and willing to engage with any government and come up with effective measures to ensure product security. Restricting Huawei from doing business will not make a country more secure or stronger; instead, this will only serve to limit their 5G networks to inferior yet more expensive alternatives, leaving them lagging behind in 5G deployment, and eventually harming the interests of companies and consumers.”

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