Huawei out of the core but allowed up to 35% share of RAN
The U.K. government has decided to allow Chinese vendor Huawei to continue providing equipment to local 5G networks but with certain restrictions, despite pressure from the U.S. to block the vendor.
Ministers today determined that U.K. operators should put in place additional safeguards and exclude high-risk vendors from parts of the telecoms network that are critical to security, the government said in a release.
The Chinese vendor will be banned from supplying kit to sensitive “core” parts of 5G networks; it will be limited to a minority presence of no more than 35% in the 5G radio access network.
The U.K. government also said that high-risk vendors will be excluded from sensitive geographic locations, such as nuclear sites and military bases.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson chaired a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC), where it was agreed that the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) should issue guidance to national telecoms operators on high-risk vendors following the conclusions of the Telecoms Supply Chain Review.
The guidance sets out the practical steps operators should take to implement the government’s decision on how to best mitigate risks in 5G networks.
Officials also said that it will now seek to legislate at the earliest opportunity to put in place the powers necessary to implement this new telecoms security framework.
Digital Secretary Baroness Morgan said: “We want world-class connectivity as soon as possible but this must not be at the expense of our national security. High risk vendors never have been and never will be in our most sensitive networks.”
“The government has reviewed the supply chain for telecoms networks and concluded today it is necessary to have tight restrictions on the presence of high risk vendors,” the official added.
Chinese vendor Huawei welcomed the decision. “Huawei is reassured by the U.K. government’s confirmation that we can continue working with our customers to keep the 5G rollout on track,” the firm’s local chief Victor Zhang said in a statement. “It gives the U.K. access to world-leading technology and ensures a competitive market.”
Local carriers Vodafone and BT are already using Huawei’s equipment in their 5G networks.
The government also said that it is now developing a strategy to help diversify the supply chain. This will seek to attract established vendors who are not present in the UK, supporting the emergence of new, disruptive entrants to the supply chain.
Leaders have been facing pressure from the U.S. government to block the Chinese vendor over security allegations as Washington considers that Beijing uses Huawei for spying purposes.
U.S. officials have warned that allowing Huawei in 5G networks could affect trade talks. They also warned that intelligence sharing with the U.K. may be affected. Both countries are members of the so-called Five Eyes countries, along with Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, who share their most sensitive intelligence with each other.
A Trump administration official has said the US “is disappointed” with the decision.
Newt Gingrich, a Republican and former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, described it as a “strategic defeat” for his country. “British decision to accept Huawei for 5G is a major defeat for the United States. How big does Huawei have to get and how many countries have to sign with Huawei for the US government to realize we are losing the internet to China? This is becoming an enormous strategic defeat,” Gingrich said.