UK may not ban Huawei 5G equipment after all

18 Feb 2019

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UK intelligence conclusions put a dent in US allegations.

It turns out that the UK may not support a total ban of Huawei equipment from its national telecoms networks’ 5G roll-outs.

Various reports indicate that intelligence agencies have concluded that it is possible to mitigate the alleged risks of using Huawei equipment.

According to the Financial Times, which cited two sources, the UK National Cyber Security Centre determined that there are ways to minimise risks of using Huawei technology in future 5G networks.

Reuters cited a source that said the UK may not support a full ban of the technologies involved. Echoing reports of what Deutsche Telekom has recommended, it is understood that intelligence bodies believe the apparent risks could be mitigated if equipment is tested at special labs overseen by intelligence officials.

Espionage and prestige

The development could serve as a serious blow to US efforts to get allied nations to ban the Chinese tech giant based on allegations of enabling state espionage.

The US National Security Agency is understood to be sharing information with allies to underscore the risks, but the latest conclusion from the UK intelligence community may galvanise other nations’ resolve to continue using Huawei.

The UK conclusion carries some weight because as a member of the Five Eyes partnership it has access to US intelligence information.

In addition, the US has not provided any compelling information that confirms its allegations are true. Despite this, a number of western nations have restricted the use of Huawei equipment. Britain’s BT and France’s Orange have already removed Huawei equipment while Germany’s Deutsche Telekom and Ireland’s Eir have both stated that they are sticking with Huawei.

A UK government review of British telecoms infrastructure – including recommendations on managing security risks in future 5G networks – is expected to be published later this year.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years