Chinese tech superpower Huawei may have met intense opposition from the United States, but it seems like the United Kingdom is much more welcoming as major telecom providers in the European country has recently signed contracts with Huawei to help build their 5G infrastructure.
The news broke out amidst the strengthened threats of sanctions from the White House on their allies who decide to accept Huawei as part of their 5G projects, citing that the company is used as a trojan horse by the Chinese government to carry out its plans of cyber espionage and economic sabotage.
Nonetheless, four major mobile service providers have already made deals with Huawei to develop their 5G infra projects. Huawei is already involved in building 5G networks in six of the seven cities in the UK where Vodafone has gone live. It is also helping build hundreds of 5G sites for EE and has won 5G contracts to build networks for Three and O2 when they go live.
However, it is still unclear if the British government will allow the Chinese smartphone giant to build the next generation of wireless infrastructure. This development is feared to incite tensions between the UK and the US, primarily that Washington has already been campaigning against Huawei for the last years.
The decision to use Huawei in the “non-core” parts of their networks — chiefly the radio systems allowing wireless communication — is a gamble for UK telecom operators. The loss is imminent if the UK government decides to ban Huawei in all 5G efforts as the US wanted.
The United States’ campaign against tech giant and network infrastructure company Huawei has since been slapped with skepticism from the country’s European allies as the tension between the Trump Administration and Huawei escalates.
UK and EU is ‘skeptical’ of US claims vs. Huawei
In a bilateral meeting with the US government in March, European countries took a ‘skeptical’ stance against the assertion from the US that the security threats cannot be managed, according to participants of the said meeting.
While most European countries agree that Huawei could be used by the Chinese government and enable espionage, they mostly disagree on the contention that their technologies could not contain the risk.
“They understand there’s a security concern,” said Robert Strayer, assistant secretary of state for cyber policy, who took part in the meetings. “The issue is how you solve it. Our position is there’s no way to manage it effectively. In a 5G network that relies on millions of lines of code, it only takes one line of code to compromise the network.”
The disconnect between the United States and its European partners poses a chilling challenge to the first world country’s bid to take leadership on the build-out of the state-of-the-art, next-generation 5G networks that could be used to power self-driving cars, smart cities, and other new technologies that would require a fast internet connection.
In the recent months, after intense lobbying by Huawei, reports suggest that Britain and New Zealand may go back to Huawei after previous announcements of freezing the company out in their telecom plans.
At the world’s top mobile industry fair in Spain early this year, Huawei bagged 5G commercial contracts or partnership agreements with ten telecom operators — including Switzerland’s Sunrise, Iceland’s Nova, Saudi Arabia’s STC and Turkey’s Turkcell.
“With the transformational critical services that 5G will empower, we cannot risk having those services being disrupted or manipulated by authoritarian regimes,” said Robert Strayer, assistant secretary of state for cyber policy, who took part in the meetings. “Those concerns are in addition to the diversion of sensitive personal and business data that authoritarian regimes have already shown they have an interest in acquiring by cyber means.”
Furthermore, UK officials are inclined to give Huawei a chance especially after what happened in December when the O2 4G network went down for 24 hours due to problems with technology provided by the Swedish telecoms firm Ericsson.
“If we had banned Huawei and everyone was just using Ericsson, we would have had a day without any mobile coverage on any network – not a good position to be in,” said Matthew Howett.