UK opts to allow Huawei into 5G networks – terms and conditions apply

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After much deliberation, the UK Prime Minister announces Huawei will be allowed a limited presence in non-core elements of 5G infrastructure.

Although the Chinese giant has been designated a “high-risk vendor”, Huawei equipment will be allowed to account for up to 35% of UK operators’ non-core 5G and full-fibre infrastructures, on which 5G is highly reliant.

Operators are to be given three years to comply. The conditions will pass into law and the telecoms regulator Ofcom will be responsible for enforcing it.

The decision was made this morning at a meeting of the national security committee (NSC), which includes some ministers and intelligence officials.

Under control?

Despite heavy pressure from the Trump Administration to keep Huawei equipment out of 5G infrastructure, operators and others warned that do so would set the UK back two or three years in 5G deployments, as well as dramatically raise the cost.

Operators have also argued that they are more than aware of and able to manage the risk, such as set out here by Scott Petty, CTO, Vodafone UK. Many commentators have also stressed that security risks are not limited to any single vendor.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to meet Trump’s Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, on Thursday.

Timing and other countries

The UK leaves the European Union on Friday, and is looking to the US for trade deals. The UK is also saying it will press ahead and look to tax US digital companies more proportionately to the income they earn in the country.

The UK government insists its decision will not affect its sharing of intelligence with allies.

It is highly likely that other European countries will follow the UK’s lead. Speaking at the Orange 2020 Europe Day in London last week, Ramon Fernandez, Deputy CEO, Finance, Orange, was asked about the matter and stressed that no single vendor would be banned and said, “You have not heard anyone in Europe say so; it is perfectly clear”.