26 February 2020
Huawei may not be completely shut out from Britain's 5G rollout, a report suggests. Photo: Reuters
Huawei may not be completely shut out from Britain's 5G rollout, a report suggests. Photo: Reuters

UK officials propose limited 5G role for China’s Huawei: report

British officials have proposed granting Huawei a limited role in the UK’s future 5G network, resisting US calls for a complete ban over fears of Chinese spying, Reuters reports, citing people with knowledge of the matter.

The recommendation, made at a meeting of officials from senior government departments on Wednesday, comes ahead of a meeting of Britain’s National Security Council next week to decide how to deploy Huawei equipment, the report said.

The officials are said to have proposed barring Huawei from the sensitive, data-heavy “core” part of the network and restricted government systems, closely mirroring a provisional decision made last year under former Prime Minister Theresa May.

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

A spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “The work on the issue of high risk vendors in the 5G network remains ongoing and when it is completed it will be announced to parliament.”

In the first big test of Brexit Britain’s foreign policy, Johnson’s government must balance its “special relationship” with the United States against valuable trade ties with China and industry warnings that banning Huawei would cost billions of dollars and delay the UK rollout of super-fast 5G connections.

The proposed solution represents a “calculated compromise”, which can be presented to Washington as a tough restriction on the Chinese firm but also accepted by British operators already using the company’s equipment, Reuters cited one of its sources as saying.

Any decision by Britain to allow Huawei even a restricted role in its 5G networks will likely anger US officials, who say Huawei equipment could be used by China for spying or sabotage.

UK intelligence officials have called out Huawei for failing to address security flaws in its equipment, but say they have found no evidence of state espionage and believe they are able to successfully manage any risks posed by the firm.

Britain’s two largest telecoms operators, BT and Vodafone, have also argued against a total ban.

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