Tuesday, 23 July 2019 10:01

UK blames US lack of clarity on Huawei for its own indecision Featured

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Jeremy Wright: "We know that there are those who have the intention and the capability to carry out espionage, sabotage and destructive cyber attacks against our communications sector." Jeremy Wright: "We know that there are those who have the intention and the capability to carry out espionage, sabotage and destructive cyber attacks against our communications sector." Courtesy: Jeremy Wright's website

The UK says a lack of clarity about the US Government's stance on the Chinese telecommunications equipment vendor Huawei Technology has forced London to delay its own decision on using 5G technology from the firm.

British Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Jeremy Wright told Parliament on Monday: "The government is not yet in a position to decide what involvement Huawei should have in the provision of the UK’s 5G network and I want to explain why that is.

"On 16 May, the US Government added Huawei Technologies and 68 affiliates to its Entity List on national security grounds.

"US companies now have to apply for a licence to export, re-export or transfer a specified range of goods, software and technology to Huawei and named affiliates, with a presumption of denial. On 20 May, the US Government issued a 90-day Temporary General Licence that authorises transactions in relation to specified areas."

Wright said he had sought clarity on the extent of the US restrictions but Washington was yet to make its position clear. "Until it is, we have concluded it would be wrong to make specific decisions in relation to Huawei. We will do so as soon as possible," he added.

This means that the next prime minister, who will be named this week, will have to announce the UK decision on Huawei.

Two providers, EE and Vodafone, have already launched 5G services using Huawei gear in the non-core parts of their network as per the standing policy of the government.

In April, a National Security Council decision on allowing the use of Huawei gear in non-core parts of the network was leaked. The decision, attributed to Prime Minister Theresa May, said the Chinese firm would be allowed to contribute antennas and other infrastructure that are not considered to be part of the core.

Last year, BT and Huawei jointly announced that the Chinese firm's gear would be removed from the core of 3G and 4G networks as had been planned by BT when it bought EE — earlier known as Everything Everywhere — in 2016.

Wright told Parliament that his department had finalised a review into the country's telecommunications supply chain and had identified three areas of concern:

"Firstly, that existing arrangements may have achieved good commercial outcomes but have not incentivised cyber security risk management.

"Secondly, that policy and regulation in enforcing telecoms cyber security needs to be significantly strengthened to address these concerns.

"And finally, that the lack of diversity across the telecoms supply chain creates the possibility of national dependence on single suppliers, which poses a range of risks to the security and resilience of UK telecoms networks."

On 15 July, the UK Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee said it had found no evidence to suggest that the complete exclusion of Huawei from British telecommunications networks would constitute "a proportionate response to the potential security threat posed by foreign suppliers".

And four days later, the Intelligence and Security Committee warned that excluding Huawei would harm resilience and lower security standards.

He said the review had called for setting up of a new security framework for the country's telecommunications sector.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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