IT professionals doubt Huawei’s 5G warning

The majority of IT professionals (53 per cent) do not believe Huawei’s claim that the UK’s decision to ban the tech giant from its 5G network infrastructure will 'move Britain into the digital slow lane, push up bills and deepen the digital divide'.

The British Computer Society and Chartered Institute for IT surveyed its 2,962 members at the end of July, finding that over a quarter (28 per cent) did still agree with the Chinese telecoms firms’ warning that the UK’s tech development will stall without it - with 19 per cent remaining neutral.

After initially giving Huawei a reduced role in the UK's technical 5G roll-out, the government announced its ban in July, stating the company's hardware should be removed from the UK’s 5G networks by the end of 2027.

The measures followed advice from the National Cyber Security Centre on the impact of US sanctions and concerns around the company's links to the Chinese state - something which it has strenuously denied. Ahead of this there will be a total ban on the purchase of any new Huawei 5G apparatus after 31 December 2020.

Ed Brewster, a spokesperson for Huawei UK, argued that the ban would move Britain "into the digital slow lane".

Nearly half (48 per cent) believe the government’s 2027 target for removal of Huawei from infrastructure is feasible, while 27 per cent said stripping out by this date is not possible and a quarter were undecided.

Just over half (51 per cent) thought that Huawei's removal from the network will make the UK safer. Close to a third (31 per cent) felt the UK will be no safer with Huawei gone and 19 per cent were undecided.

Only 31 per cent were concerned that the consequences of Huawei's removal will damage the UK’s IT industry. This compared with 48 per cent who were not concerned, and 20 per cent who were neutral.

When it comes to building 5G equipment, only 51 per cent felt that a completely trustworthy supply and manufacturing chain is achievable.

Bill Mitchell, director of policy at BCS, said: “Huawei’s claim that the UK will somehow be thrown into a dark age without them looks like hubris, according to most IT professionals.

“While our survey results show broad support for the government’s decision, most experts also feel that no 5G infrastructure can be guaranteed as totally trustworthy," he continued. "The government’s challenge now is to build on public backing for the Huawei decision, by ensuring standards of high competence, ethics and trust throughout the tech industries, as it develops the alternatives."

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