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UK business secretary: Britain will make Huawei 5G decision soon

By Hazel Davis

Andrea Leadsom says there are only 'limited alternatives' to controversial Chinese telecoms giant

UK business secretary Andrea Leadsom has said Britain will decide soon on the role of Chinese tech company Huawei in its 5G telecoms network.

Leadsom told Sky on Thursday that there were a “limited number” of alternative infrastructure providers and that the decision would take into account the Chinese company’s existing UK work. Prime minister Boris Johnson has asked alternative providers to throw their hats into the ring.

The UK's decision will affect future relationships with the US, which has told allies not to use Huawei for security reasons. It fears that giving Huawei, the world’s largest telecoms supplier, 5G dominance would provide it with increased opportunities for surveillance.

Currently the company supplies the UK with non-core components only. BT and Vodafone both use its services. Some providers believe that not using Huawei could set the 5G roll-out back considerably.

“I share the concerns of many citizens about protecting our national security interest,” Leadsom told Sky. In May Huawei announced it was prepared to sign a no-spy agreement with the UK.

Senior government officials on Wednesday proposed granting the company a limited role in the network. This would bar Huawei from data-heavy, sensitive elements and restricted government systems. These suggestions are similar to those made last year by former Prime Minister Theresa May.

Leadsom is meeting US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Saturday.

Mnuchin has described the Huwaei situation as "a complicated issue”. Speaking in Davos, he said: “We’ve made very clear that it relates to all of the critical areas that we have significant concerns. But again, there’s ongoing discussion on these issues.

“The technical and policy guidance hasn’t changed,” an anonymous UK Government source told Reuters, “Now it is down to a political calculation.”

The UK is expected to make its final decision before the end of January.

FURTHER READING: Greenland picks Ericsson over Huawei for 5G rollout

FURTHER READING: Huawei founder says US ban may cost company $30bn

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