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4th Mar 2024

Concerned UK lawmakers push for faster Huawei 5G ban

A crossparty group of UK lawmakers have called on Boris Johnson's government to consider removing Huawei from the country's 5G networks, two years before a current 2027 deadline, saying there is "clear evidence of collusion" between Huawei and the "Chinese Communist Party apparatus".

5G (fifth generation) connectivity is expected to become the infrastructure that will pave the way for products and services such as self-driving cars or industrial robotics.

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"Having a company so closely tied to a state and political organisation sometimes at odds with UK interests should be a point of concern," MPs warned in a report published Thursday (8 October) - adding that this is evidenced by Huawei's ownership model and the subsidies it has received so far.

Security concerns, including espionage, sabotage and blackmail, combined with the growing pressure, particularly from the US, to resist Huawei's technology, forced the UK to ban Huawei from its 5G network by 2027 in July.

"However, should pressure from allies for a speedier removal continue or should China's threats and global position change so significantly to warrant it, the government should consider whether a removal by 2025 is feasible and economically viable," the MPs said.

Experts from the industry have recommended a minimum five-year transition plan, saying that a ban on Huawei would delay the 5G rollout, damaging the country's economy.

In the UK there are two main large-scale providers of key 5G technology besides Huawei: Finnish Nokia and Swedish Ericsson.

However, market diversity is considered critical for having secure networks, putting pressure on the government to attract other scale players to the UK market, such as South Korean Samsung or Japanese NEC.

"The British government's decision to remove Huawei completely from 5G by 2027 poses a risk that could potentially result in an even less diverse market, which could bring security and resilience concerns of its own," lawmakers warned.

Meanwhile, Huawei denied the accusations made by the House of Commons defence committee, saying that the report lacks credibility as "it is built on opinions rather than facts".

"We are sure people will see through these groundless accusations of collusion and remember instead what Huawei has delivered for Britain over the past 20 years," a Huawei spokesperson told EUobserver.

Yet, the findings of the report include the testimony of academics, cybersecurity experts and telecom executives.

Additionally, British MPs acknowledged that the debate surrounding Huawei's involvement in the country's 5G network has centred not only on technical considerations but on "broader geopolitical issues".

This includes concerns about the UK's place in the 'Five Eyes' alliance, whose members Australia, New Zealand and the United States have rejected Chinese equipment for their telecommunication networks, while Canada is finalising a review on the matter.

Ericsson and Nokia

China, meanwhile, is trying to guarantee access to European markets for Huawei and other tech companies.

The German government is thought to be setting tight restrictions for the Chinese firm in its own IT security bill due to be presented later this month.

But Deutsche Telekom, Germany's largest telecom provider, estimates that replacing Huawei equipment with other manufacturers could cost nearly €3bn.

In August, French president Emmanuel Macron announced that the Chinese telecom giant would not be excluded from his country's 5G networks but that he would favour European companies such as Ericsson and Nokia.

This follows the idea established by the European Commission in its so-called "toolbox" of security standards for 5G - which does not exclude any specific telecom supplier, but calls on EU countries to carefully assess suppliers considered to be "high risk".

Yet, European countries are falling behind in their 5G networks rollouts. Until mid-September 2020, EU countries (including the UK) had assigned on average only 27.5 percent of the 5G pioneer bands.

The commission is pushing member states to avoid more delays, identifying best practices by the end of the year to develop a common approach by April 2021.

Last week, the European Council pointed out that potential 5G suppliers need to be assessed on the basis of common objective criteria.

UK bans Huawei from 5G network in major U-turn

The UK reversed course and announced Huawei will be removed from the national 5G networks by the end of 2027 - and a total ban on the purchase of any new 5G kit from the company from next year.

EU rules leave 5G networks open for Huawei

The European Commission unveiled its "toolbox" of security standards for 5G - without excluding any specific telecom supplier, amid concerns over Huawei's links to China's intelligence services.

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