In brief: Despite pressure from the US to shun the company, the UK government has announced it will allow Huawei to build parts of Britain’s 5G network, albeit with some restrictions.
The Chinese giant will be banned from supplying equipment for the “core,” or sensitive areas, of the network. Additionally, Huawei will have a limited presence of no more than 35 percent of the network’s periphery, which includes radio masts, and it is prohibited from operating at locations such as nuclear and military facilities.
Even though the UK is allowing Huawei limited access, it still designated the firm a “high-risk vendor.” It seems there was little alternative other than to use the company—The Guardian writes that officials feared a ban would have delayed the 5G rollout by two to three years and affected economic growth. Beijing had warned of “substantial” repercussions to trade and investment plans had Huawei been banned outright.
“Our world-leading cyber-security experts know more about Huawei than any country in the world – and they are satisfied that with our tough approach and regulatory regime, any risks can be managed,” said a government source.
Back in April 2019, the US warned that it could cut intelligence ties with the UK if it used Huawei’s 5G tech. The announcement will likely strain ties between the Trump administration and Boris Johnson’s government. Former Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich, called the decision a “strategic defeat” for America.
British decision to accept Huawei for 5G is a major defeat for the United Statees. 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.— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) January 28, 2020
As noted by the BBC, Three out of four of the UK's mobile networks had already decided to use and deploy Huawei's 5G products in the periphery.
“Huawei is reassured by the UK government's confirmation that we can continue working with our customers to keep the 5G rollout on track,” said Huawei’s UK chief Victor Zhang, in a statement. “It gives the UK access to world-leading technology and ensures a competitive market.”
In May last year, former UK Prime Minister Theresa May fired defense secretary Gavin Williamson for allegedly leaking details of a National Security Council meeting regarding Huawei and its role in the UK’s 5G network.