UK gov 'approves Huawei 5G involvement'

Written by Hannah McGrath

The UK government has reportedly given the green light for Huawei to build “non-core” parts of the 5G data network, after months of warnings over a potential security risk.

The Daily Telegraph reported that a long-awaited decision on the involvement of the Chinese telecoms giant in the UK’s 5G infrastructure network had concluded that its equipment could be used to help build antennas and other non-core infrastructure.

Core infrastructure would include channels that control data flows and processing, as well as checking device IDs and the routing of voice calls.

The US government has been locked in an ongoing battle to persuade its allies to ban Huawei equipment from all 5G networks amid fears that the company could use “back doors” to enable surveillance by the Chinese government.

Huawei has vigorously denied any allegations of Chinese state involvement in its infrastructure.

According to reports, the decision to permit Huawei to build less sensitive parts of the nation’s high speed 5G infrastructure was taken at a meeting of the National Security council on Tuesday.

An official announcement of the decision is expected to be made by Jeremy Wright, secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport in the coming days.

Norman Lamb, chair of the Science and Technology Committee, said that it is clear there is significant disagreement within government. “I expect the Science and Technology Select Committee will now convene an evidence session very soon to question ministers on this decision and to hear directly from Huawei.”

“The government should publish its telecoms supply chain review, including its 5G plans without delay," he added.

Responding to the reports, digital minister Margot James tweeted: "In spite of Cabinet leaks to the contrary, final decision yet to be made on managing threats to telecoms infrastructure."

This morning Ciaran Martin, head of the National Cyber Security Centre - which has a specialist unit dedicated to security oversight of Huawei's presence UK - told the BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the UK could take a different approach to its allies in the Five Eyes security alliance.

"In the past decade there have been different approaches across the Five Eyes and across the allied wider Western alliance towards Huawei and towards other issues as well,” he said.

Last month, an NCSC report criticised Chinese firm Huawei for failing to fix software and security flaws in its mobile network technology, citing “significant technical issues” that need to be addressed.

Telecoms giant Vodafone warned that a ban on Huawei’s technology in 5G networks could cost the company hundreds of millions and delay the roll out of its next generation networks.