When 5G comes to the UK, it will be with the help of Huawei. British companies can include equipment from the Chinese tech giant in their 5G network infrastructure, but not in “security critical” areas, the British government announced.
“We want world-class connectivity as soon as possible, but this must not be at the expense of our national security,” digital secretary Sally Morgan said in a statement released by the British government. “High risk vendors never have been and never will be in our most sensitive networks.”
Involving Huawei in the construction of 5G networks in the West has been a complicated a controversial proposal because of fears the Chinese government could use Huawei-installed equipment to spy on network users. The US government strongly urged the UK to shut Huawei out of the 5G process and has proposed a ban on the company’s products.
The UK has been hopeful of working out a post-Brexit trade deal with the US, and this decision will no doubt be a point of contention in the talks. The Trump administration said it was disappointed with the UK’s decision and shows every intention of discouraging other countries from using Huawei in their 5G networks.
Huawei has been involved in building wireless networks in the UK since 2003, and National Cyber Security Centre technical director Ian Levy wrote that “We’ve always treated them as a ‘high risk vendor’ and have worked to limit their use in the UK and put extra mitigations around their equipment and services.”
Huawei is privately held, and shareholders have said they don’t understand the company’s structure. The company has rejected public stock listings in the past. That aura of mystery and the fact that the Chinese law allows the government to order Chinese companies to do its bidding has fueled spying fears for years.