Monday, 06 July 2020 07:18

UK set to change Huawei decision, seek gear removal this year: report Featured

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Courtesy YouTube

The use of equipment from Chinese telecommunications equipment vendor Huawei Technologies in British 5G networks will be phased out from this year onwards, a report claims.

The Telegraph, the same paper that leaked the decision about Huawei taken by former British prime minister Theresa May's government in May 2019, said on Saturday that the UK intelligence service GCHQ had reversed its earlier advice, which was made public in January, giving Huawei a chance to supply up to 35% of equipment for the non-core parts of networks.

Following US pressure, applied on Prime Minister Boris Johnson when Washington was approached about a trade deal, Britain agreed to review its earlier stance. The Telegraph said a report from the new review would be given to Johnson this week and it would conclude that new American strictures on Huawei would mean that any risk mitigation which was possible earlier would not be possible now.

In May, the US Department of Commerce said it would make changes in its Foreign Direct Product Rule which prevents a company from buying goods that are produced using American technology or equipment, no matter whether the firm making them is American or not.

Strict imposition of this rule would make it impossible for Huawei to obtain advanced semiconductors which it used in its smartphones and 5G base stations, among other products, from any firm that uses US equipment or technology – and most do. This is why the UK will argue that the risk from Huawei equipment has increased, because its semiconductors will, in future, be coming from sources other than the regular suppliers.

Exactly how this decision will sit with the four British telcos who have already taken Johnson's word and used Huawei gear remains to be seen.

Vodafone, O2, EE (a BT unit) and Three have all rolled out 5G networks, and used Huawei gear in non-core parts of the network. Spanish group Telefonica owns O2 and it has used Huawei’s infrastructure in some of its other networks. O2 has no wide use of Huawei in the UK, but has a network-sharing agreement with Vodafone.

The companies relied on the interim advice from May's government that this would be the government's final stance.

Industry sources have said if the UK went ahead with an earlier reported policy of removing Huawei equipment by the end of 2023, it would cost about £7 billion (A$12.9 billion).

After Johnson's January announcement, London reportedly twice changed its stance, once saying it would remove Huawei gear completely by 2023 and later saying it would block the use of such equipment after 2023.

Washington has campaigned for more than two years to try and push countries it considers allies to avoid using 5G equipment from Huawei in their networks. Thus far, only Australia and Vietnam have said openly that they would follow the American lead.

Japan, South Korea and Poland have indicated that they are likely to toe the US line, but have yet to make public pronouncements about what policy they would follow.

More recently, India, the UAE and Cambodia have said they would allow Huawei to participate in 5G trials. But New Delhi is likely to change its stance after its soldiers clashed with Chinese troops on the border on 15 June.

iTWire has contacted Huawei for comment.


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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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