It has been two weeks since Inside Telecom has reported about Huawei receiving permission to open a Research and Development Center in Cambridge. However, the debate about the Chinese Telecom giant presence in the United Kingdom has not ended. On July 6, 2020, UK PM Boris Johnson signalled that the government might be imposing further limits on the China Telecom Giant Huawei’s implication in the deployment of Britain’s 5G network. “I’m determined that the UK should not be in any way vulnerable to a high-risk state vendor,” said Johnson according to Reuters. Nevertheless, Johnson emphasized the importance of continuing to deliver the broadband that the UK needs.
In January, the United Kingdom decided to limit the Huawei market share for a non-core 5G network to 35% until 2023. Back then, Huawei was labelled as a high-risk vendor and was excluded from UK sensitive geographic locations. In May 2020, the United States imposed sanctions on Huawei. Thus, the UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has been studying the impact of US sanctions on the company. NCSC said that it no longer assures the security of Huawei’s equipment after US sanctions.
According to the Financial Times, the US sanctions imposed on Huawei- effective in September- aims to cut off the company’s access to semiconductors made with US equipment. This decision raised UK concerns on cybersecurity as the Chinese Telecom giant would be forced to use an alternative technology that might impose security risks.
During a virtual news conference, Liu Xiaoming, China’s Ambassador to Britain told UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson “You cannot have a golden area if you treat China as an enemy”, according to The Washington Post. Xiaoming also criticized Johnson’s foreign policy “It means that you cannot make your own independent foreign policy. You succumbed to foreign pressure”.
On the other hand, China’s Ambassador to Britain sees that US pressures will make Huawei stronger. “If Huawei is excluded from the UK, it will still remain active in 169 countries”, said the Ambassador. However, he avowed that banning Huawei from playing a role in developing the UK’s 5G network would damage the UK’s reputation and Chinese Trust in the UK, according to the Guardian.
On July 5, 2020, Paul Harrison, Huawei’s Head of International media, UK said in a tweet “UK policy is being dictated by Trump administration. European Parliament replaced by White House?” and he added, “Shouldn’t the US respect a United Kingdom in the post-Brexit era being in a position to choose its own telecommunication strategy?” Regarding the US advocacy against Huawei’s implication in building 5G networks, Harrison said, “The US fell asleep at the 5G wheel years ago & they’re fighting to claw back market position. Huawei did it organically.”
A complete ban on Huawei might impose a serious risk for the UK 5G networks. Companies have already started to fill the Huawei gap. Now, with the debate to remove the remaining 35%, telecom operators have to adjust their plans and to search for alternative suppliers.
Removing Huawei equipment in such a time frame is costly for telecom operators. They might start asking for compensation to switch to another equipment provider.