Cyberwarfare / Nation-State Attacks , Endpoint Security , Fraud Management & Cybercrime

UK Approves 'Limited' Role for Huawei in 5G Networks

British Government Snubs Trump Administration's Request to Ban Chinese Firm's Equipment
UK Approves 'Limited' Role for Huawei in 5G Networks

This story has been updated.

See Also: SASE: Recognizing the Challenges of Securing a Hybrid Workforce

The United Kingdom will allow "limited" use of equipment from China’s Huawei for the nation’s emerging 5G networks, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government announced Tuesday. In the U.S., the White House and some lawmakers again expressed concerns about the global security threat posed by use of the Chinese firm’s gear.

The National Security Council, which is chaired by Johnson, made the decision Tuesday to restrict the use of Huawei equipment by the nation’s mobile operators to only non-core parts of the country's 5G networks, such as antennas and base stations. The government will label the Chinese firm as a "high risk” vendor. As a result, Huawei will be excluded from the sensitive "core" parts of new 5G and gigabit-capable networks. In the U.K., high-risk vendors as "those who pose greater security and resilience risks to U.K. telecoms networks," the government announcement states.

In addition, Huawei will also be excluded from networks that are part of the critical infrastructure in the U.K. This includes sensitive geographic locations, such as nuclear sites and military bases.

"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," says Nicky Morgan, the secretary of state for the government's department of Culture, Media and Sport.

On Wednesday, the European Commission endorsed guidelines for 5G networks that would allow European Union member states to decide whether to allow "high risk" telecommunications groups, including Huawei, in their networks, The Hill reports.

Huawei Vice President Victor Zhang commented on Twitter: "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."

U.K. Dilemma

Johnson said using Huawei's products would speed up the process of providing 5G service in Britain.

"There is no reason why we shouldn’t have technological progress here in the U.K., allow consumers, businesses in the U.K. to have access to fantastic technology, to fantastic communications but also protect our security interests and protect our key partnerships with other security powers around the world," Johnson said, according to Reuters.

Earlier, U.K. telecom firms BT and Vodafone lobbied Johnson to allow the use of Huawei technology in 5G networks, arguing that they haven't seen evidence of the Chinese firm's equipment posing a security risk that warrants a total ban (see: BT and Vodafone Reportedly Want Huawei 5G Gear).

Defying the U.S.

The Trump administration, which pressured the U.K. to ban the use of Huawei technology in its 5G networks, has repeatedly expressed concerns that the technology could be used for spying and espionage (see: UK Considers Limited Role for Huawei in 5G Rollout: Report)

"There is no safe option for untrusted vendors to control any part of a 5G network," a Trump administration official told Reuters after Britain announced its decision Tuesday. "We look forward to working with the U.K. on a way forward that results in the exclusion of untrusted vendor components from 5G networks."

On Tuesday, several U.S. Republican senators also expressed their concerns about the U.K. decision on Huawei.

Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah, asked the U.K. to reverse its decision on Huawei, calling it a "disconcerting sign."

In an effort to add to pressure on countries to ban Huawei's equipment, Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., introduced a bill in the House earlier this month that would block the U.S. from sharing intelligence with countries that use Huawei equipment in their 5G networks. A similar bill was introduced in the Senate by Republican Tom Cotton of Arkansas.

President Trump's Initiatives

Over the past year, the Trump White House has convinced several of its closest allies, including Australia, New Zealand and Japan, to bar Huawei's telecommunications gear from at least part of their upcoming 5G rollouts.

Last year, President Trump signed an executive order effectively banning Huawei from U.S. communications networks, but the government offered three temporary reprieves, the latest allowing the networks to work with Huawei until February 2020.

In November, the Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously to ban telecommunications companies from using FCC funds to buy equipment from Huawei, as well as ZTE, saying both pose a "national security threat." In addition, the FCC is offering carriers money to remove this equipment from existing networks (see: FCC Takes Steps Toward Squeezing Out Huawei, ZTE).

Pentagon Pushes Back

On Friday, however, U.S. Commerce officials withdrew proposed regulations that would have made it harder for American companies to sell equipment to Huawei from their overseas facilities, after both the Defense and Treasury departments objected to the move, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Pentagon officials objected on the grounds that if U.S. companies were not allowed to ship to Huawei, they would fall behind economically and not have money for research and development needed to maintain a technological edge, according to the Journal.

About the Author

Ishita Chigilli Palli

Ishita Chigilli Palli

Senior Correspondent, Global News Desk

As senior correspondent for Information Security Media Group's global news desk, Ishita covers news worldwide. She previously worked at Thomson Reuters, where she specialized in reporting breaking news stories on a variety of topics.

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