UK will go with Huawei for 5G roll-out despite US pressure

8 Jul 2019

Image: _fla/Depositphotos

Despite pressure from the US to cut ties with the Chinese telecoms giant, the UK will use Huawei to help roll out 5G across all four of its major phone operators.

Huawei will help the UK roll-out 5G across all its major mobile carriers, The Observer reports today. Whether or not the Chinese telecoms giant will be allowed to build the wireless infrastructure still remains to be seen, but Huawei is reportedly already involved in building 5G networks in six of the seven cities where Vodafone has gone live. This news comes in spite of increased pressure coming from the US to cut ties with Huawei.

The US has been engaged in a very public battle with Huawei since it placed the company on an entity ban list in May. This effectively barred US companies from selling any products or conducting business with Huawei, a move that has proven disastrous for the company’s global sales.

Though it appeared that Trump was set to ease the trade ban after a meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping, the US government is reportedly yet to be advised of any changes to the previously set condition, and so the development remains in limbo.

In June, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo placed even more pressure on the UK government to rethink its relationship with Huawei, dangling the prospect that the critically important intelligence relationship the two nations share could be in jeopardy should UK press ahead.

The decision by the UK government to lean on Huawei for “non-core” parts of 5G networks – namely the radio systems that allow for wireless communication – is being called a gamble by some, as UK telecom operators may find themselves severely out of the pocket if the UK ever does go so far as to ban the technology firm. Restrictions on Huawei could lead to mass delays to roll-out plans.

The impending UK leadership race raises further questions about Huawei’s fate in the UK. Current leadership frontrunner Boris Johnson, speaking to Reuters, said of the issue: “It is very important to recognise that there can be significant benefits to investment from overseas in this country and Chinese companies are welcome as much as any other companies but you would not expect the UK to do anything to compromise its vital national security infrastructure.”

This, plus previous comments in debates, seems to indicate that Johnson could come down on the side of the US on the issue, though it is impossible to say with any certainty at this time.

Huawei logo on glass building. Image: _fla/Depositphotos.

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic