UK Considers Limited Role for Huawei in 5G Rollout: ReportU.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Continues to Urge Britain to Reject Huawei
U.K. officials are considering a proposal to allow China’s Huawei to play a limited role in providing certain equipment for the country's 5G rollout, which would defy calls from the U.S. for a complete ban of telecom gear from the company, Reuters reports.
Britain's National Security Council, which is chaired by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is scheduled to meet in the coming days to decide whether to deploy Huawei equipment within the country's 5G networks, according to Reuters, which cited unnamed U.K. government sources. Johnson has been resistant to U.S. demands for a total ban of Huawei gear (see: 5G Security in the Balance as Britain Navigates Brexit)
The proposed plan to limit the use of Huawei equipment in the U.K. comes as several U.S. officials, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, have urged the U.K. avoid using the equipment.
Mnuchin and others in the Trump administration have expressed concerns that company's telecom gear poses a security threat.
"When it comes to our government networks, when it comes to sophisticated business networks, military networks and networks of all of our allies, we want to make sure that those networks are fully secure," Mnuchin previously told CNBC.
Mnuchin is expected to meet with U.K. officials this weekend, according to Reuters.
The U.S. has repeatedly warned about ties between Huawei and the Chinese government and asserts that the company's hardware could be used espionage. Huawei, which is the world's largest provider of 5G equipment, has repeatedly denied accusations that the company is a security threat or that its telecom gear could be used as a backdoor (see: Huawei: US Trade Ban Will Make 2020 'Difficult')
To add to the pressure on countries considering using 5G equipment from Huawei, U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., on Tuesday introduced a bill in the House that would block the U.S. from sharing intelligence with countries that use Huawei equipment in their 5G networks. This proposal is similar to legislation introduced in the Senate by Republican Tom Cotton of Arkansas earlier this month.
U.K. telecom firms BT and Vodafone reportedly are also planning to lobby Johnson to allow Huawei technology, arguing that they haven't seen evidence of the Chinese firm's equipment posing a security risk that warrants a total ban (see: BT and Vodafone Reportedly Want Huawei 5G Gear).
The proposal that the British government is considering would bar Huawei from providing equipment for the data-heavy "core" part of the new 5G network, according to Reuters. The company's gear would also not be used in certain, restricted government systems, the news service reports.
Industry sources told the Guardian that they believe the U.K. will formally designate Huawei a "high-risk vendor," which would place the company under further supply restrictions, including imposing a cap on its market share within the U.K.
Some rival telecom suppliers, however, told the Guardian that there can be no real distinction between core and non-core equipment because 5G generates greater speeds by having 5G networks' intelligence in base stations, rather than at the heart of the network. Any supplier would have the ability to take control of the network if it so wished, the Guardian reports.
A spokesperson for the British prime minister's office declined to comment on the debates over Huawei or what role the company could play the country's 5G network rollout.
"The security and resilience of the U.K.'s telecoms networks is of paramount importance. The government continues to consider its position on high-risk vendors, and a decision will be made in due course," the spokesperson told Information Security Media Group.
At the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei noted that the company has hired dozens of U.S.-based consulting firms. "I think the U.S. should not be overly concerned about Huawei and Huawei's position in the world," Zhengfei says.
A Huawei spokesperson did not respond to request for comment.