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UK decision on Huawei restriction delayed

By Jonathan Powell in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-07-24 00:25
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The British government published its long-awaited review of the United Kingdom telecom sector supply chain but has left the decision on whether Huawei should play a role in the UK 5G rollout to Boris Johnson, named on Tuesday as the next prime minister, replacing Theresa May.

Jeremy Wright, the UK culture secretary, said the government is "not yet in a position" to decide what involvement Huawei should have in the 5G network.

Wright said concerns about the long-term future of Huawei were behind the government's move to postpone the decision and that delay was the only sensible approach to take after the United States administration put Huawei on a trade black list this year that effectively bans US groups selling critical software and components to the company.

"We should not be saying to the industry 'by all means use Huawei equipment' if we doubt they are viable in the long term, by which I mean more than 12 months hence, because they are running out of spare parts because the Americans are choking off supply," Wright told the Financial Times on Monday.

He said the UK telecoms sector needed a "definitive" answer on whether to use Huawei or to switch to other suppliers. "If we were to say something and change our minds, that would be even less helpful", the minister said.

The US banned companies from selling components and technology to Huawei and 68 related companies on May 15, citing national security concerns.

It later issued a temporary license that enabled some companies to continue supporting existing Huawei networks and devices.

Some companies, however, pulled services immediately. Google withdrew its Android operating system from Huawei smartphones and Intel announced that it would stop delivering chips.

Wright said the US decision "could have a potential impact on the future availability and reliability of Huawei's products, together with other market impacts, and so are relevant considerations in determining Huawei's involvement in the network".

Huawei has repeatedly denied claims the use of its products presents security risks, and has said it is independent from the Chinese government.

Huawei's Vice-President Victor Zhang said the company was confident "that we can continue to work with network operators to rollout 5G across the UK".

Wright said:  "The future of our digital economy depends on trust in its safety and security. We need to have the right measures in place to make our telecoms supply chain both safe and secure."

The government's review said that new legislation would be implemented to "significantly strengthen" cybersecurity in the telecoms industry. He also said that the government would support diversification among equipment suppliers. The market is dominated by Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia.

"The lack of diversity across the telecoms supply chain creates the possibility of national dependence on single suppliers, which poses a range of risks to the security and resilience of UK telecoms networks", Wright said.

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