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UK gives Huawei limited role in 5G

By Philip Smith

The decision comes despite calls from Washington not to use the Chinese firm for security reasons

The UK has said that Huawei can be used in its 5G networks but in a limited role.

The Chinese firm will be banned from supplying kit to "sensitive parts" of the network, known as the core, and will only be allowed to account for 35 per cent of the equipment in a network's periphery, which includes radio masts. It will also be excluded from areas near military bases and nuclear sites.

“This is a UK-specific solution for UK-specific reasons and the decision deals with the challenges we face right now,” said communications secretary Baroness Nicky Morgan following a meeting of the National Security Council chaired by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “It not only paves the way for secure and resilient networks, with our sovereignty over data protected, but it also builds on our strategy to develop a diversity of suppliers.”

The US had been pressuring the UK not to allow Huawei access to its 5G core, due to security sensitivity issues. The Chinese had warned the UK there could be "substantial" repercussions to other trade and investment plans had the company been banned outright.

For a government looking to establish trade deals with both post-Brexit, it was a tightrope decision. The UK sees this as a compromise yet it has been better received in Beijing than Washington.

"Huawei is reassured that we can continue working with our customers to keep the 5G rollout on track," said its UK chief Victor Zhang said in a statement. "It gives the UK access to world-leading technology and ensures a competitive market."

“This evidence-based decision will result in a more advanced, more secure and more cost-effective telecoms infrastructure that is fit for the future. It gives the UK access to world-leading technology and ensures a competitive market.”

Newt Gingrich, a Republican and former Speaker of the US House of Representatives, described the decision as a "strategic defeat" for his country.

The UK has agreed to work with its security allies – the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand – to develop alternative telecoms suppliers to ensure that no "high-risk" vendors are involved.

FURTHER READING: 5G explained: how different is it from 4G, and when will it arrive?

FURTHER READING: EU report identifies 5G security risks

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