UK may allow Huawei parts in 5G network, risking US backlash: report

2 min read
A Huawei store in Beijing on Sept. 28, 2019. (Image credit: TechNode/Coco Gao)

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is preparing to allow Huawei equipment in certain parts of the country’s next-generation networks despite the risk of backlash from the US, the Sunday Times reported.

Why it’s important: The move would be a major blow to Washington’s campaign to bar Huawei from 5G networks worldwide on security concerns, and could cause a rift in the close relationship between the US and UK.

  • The UK is part of the Five Eyes Alliance, an intelligence-sharing network that also includes the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and could be the first of the five to decide to work with Huawei. The UK’s inclusion of Huawei in 5G could send a strong signal to other countries.

Details: According to the Sunday Times report citing anonymous senior sources, the UK government is nearing a decision to allow Huawei supply gear for “non-contentious” part of the network.

  • The individuals cited in the article say there are no good alternatives to Huawei technology, and that London risks being left behind if they don’t say yes. “The West has screwed up by allowing Huawei to develop a near monopoly in this area,” said an anonymous source quoted in the report.
  • No formal decision has been announced, and the cabinet is expected to meet within the next five weeks to finalize the ruling.

Context: In April, Theresa May made a similar decision, which sparked a cabinet crisis and was eventually revoked. Whether Johnson’s meetings included his cabinet was not made clear in the report. It remains to be seen how Johnson’s decision fares with the British Parliament, which last year protested intensely against May’s decision.

  • Washington has lobbied aggressively around the world to exclude Huawei from the development of 5G networks.
  • Huawei said in June that it had secured 50 contracts worldwide. It has also moved into smart vehicles in an effort to mitigate falling sales due to the US ban.
  • Last week, a list of draft security guidelines by the German authorities showed that Berlin is likely to allow Huawei in its networks.
  • Monaco was the first country in Europe to achieve full 5G coverage. It used Huawei gear.
  • Australia has banned Huawei from supplying 5G equipment. New Zealand has revoked an earlier ban and is still on the fence on the issue.