UK gives Huawei green light for 5G, but with strict limits

28 Jan 2020

Image: © jhvephoto/

The UK government will allow Huawei limited access to its 5G network infrastructure, but not in areas important to national security.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson is likely to draw ire from leading figures in US politics and his own party for his decision to allow Huawei limited access to the country’s 5G infrastructure. The National Security Council, chaired by Johnson, said that “high-risk vendors”, such as Huawei, should be allowed play a part in the planned 5G roll-out.

However, a number of stipulations have been included. Following advice from the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, Huawei will not be able to work in ‘core’ functions of national government including sensitive geographical locations such as nuclear missile bases.

Huawei will have access to no more than 35pc of the entire UK 5G network, with a presence in the periphery ‘access network’. This part of the network helps devices and other equipment connect to mobile masts.

The decision is likely to face backlash both in the UK and the US. Earlier this month, Tory MP Bob Seely said Huawei for “all intents and purposes is part of the Chinese state” and suggested that a deal with the tech giant would allow Beijing to access the UK’s network.

Huawei responds

Meanwhile, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo tweeted prior to the announcement that the UK had a “momentous decision ahead on 5G”, while repeating a comment made by Tory MP Tom Tugendhat: “The truth is that only nations able to protect their data will be sovereign.”

Huawei’s vice-president, Victor Zhang, has welcomed the news, saying the company is “reassured” by the decision and will now progress its infrastructure roll-out.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

As reported by The Guardian, the UK’s culture secretary, Nicky Morgan, said the decision “not only paves the way for secure and resilient networks, with our sovereignty over data protected, but it also builds on our strategy to develop a diversity of suppliers”.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic