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FT supports Huawei in building 5G

By ANGUS MCNEICE in London | China Daily | Updated: 2020-01-23 08:55
A Huawei company logo is pictured at the Shenzhen International Airport in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China in July. [Photo/Agencies]

UK govt urged to view security concerns with 'overall national interests' in mind

The editorial board at the British newspaper Financial Times has come out against a full ban on Huawei equipment in 5G networks in the United Kingdom, saying the move would be "too costly to justify".

In an editorial published this week, the newspaper, which is also known as the FT, suggests that the UK government should consider excluding Huawei kit from the most sensitive parts of British networks, but says it should stop short of a total ban and allow mobile operators to use Huawei equipment in "non-core" infrastructure, such as the masts and antennas used in radio access networks.

The UK government is considering joining a boycott of Huawei that is being led by the United States, which claims the Chinese company poses a cybersecurity threat.

A full ban on Huawei would likely delay the rollout of 5G networks in the UK, and the FT said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson must view security concerns within the wider context of "overall national interests".

"The first wave of 5G, moreover, will be built on top of existing 4G infrastructure," the newspaper said. "Banning Huawei from even the periphery would force operators to rip its equipment out of current networks-causing disruption, expense and delay-and wait for other suppliers to catch up with its technology. According to various estimates, the 5G rollout could be delayed by two to several years, reducing the broader economic benefits and holding back the UK tech industry."

The FT added that Huawei needs to "rapidly address concerns" about its cybersecurity standards that were raised last year by the UK Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre. The newspaper also suggested that the government grants communications regulator Ofcom stronger powers to hold telecoms operators to the "toughest security standards in network design".

Last week, US security officials visited London to attempt to persuade their British counterparts that Huawei products pose a security threat. However, a UK government source told The Guardian that no new evidence was provided in the presentation.

"We'd already anticipated the kind of threat that the US material demonstrates, and factored that into our planning," the unnamed source told the British newspaper.

On Tuesday, Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei said he anticipates the US will continue to lobby against the company.

"This year, the US might further escalate their campaign against Huawei, but I feel the impact against Huawei business will not be very significant," Ren said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "We are more confident that we can survive further attacks."

Non-core parts

At the weekend, former British prime minister Theresa May's onetime national security adviser, Mark Lyall Grant, said he expected Johnson would allow Huawei to operate in non-core parts of UK networks.

"The intelligence agencies are expressing confidence that they can sufficiently mitigate any potential security threat to allow Huawei to continue to provide at least the non-core telecommunications equipment for the 5G rollout," he told The Observer newspaper.

"The government has developed an oversight mechanism which they are confident will work. Combine that with the fact that Huawei has more advanced technology than the alternatives, I think it is relatively likely that Boris Johnson will come to the same conclusion."

Germany is also set to make a determination on Huawei's involvement in 5G networks. At a party conference late last year, Germany's ruling Christian Democratic Union unanimously voted to hold a debate in the Bundestag about the involvement of foreign suppliers in the country's network infrastructure.

On Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel asked lawmakers to delay decision-making until after a European Union summit in March, according to Reuters. Merkel had previously said that she favors an EU-wide approach to the Huawei issue.

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