The government of the United Kingdom has concluded that while Chinese telecom Huawei remains a high-risk vendor (HRV) whose technology should be restricted to use outside the core of the country's communications networks, it will not exclude it entirely from its 5G network buildouts, though its presence will now be limited there to 35% of nonsensitive parts of a network.
The U.S. had advised the country to ban Huawei from its 5G network as a security risk and warned that if not, the U.S. would have trouble sharing data across that network.
Following a meeting chaired by the Prime Minister, the National Security Council issued the following guidance to UK telecom operators regarding HRVs, saying they should be:
1. “Excluded from all safety related and safety critical networks in Critical National Infrastructure;
2. “Excluded from security critical ‘core’ functions, the sensitive part of the network;
3. “Excluded from sensitive geographic locations, such as nuclear sites and military bases;
4. “Limited to a minority presence of no more than 35 per cent in the periphery of the network, known as the access network, which connect devices and equipment to mobile phone masts.”
“The government is certain that these measures, taken together, will allow us to mitigate the potential risk posed by the supply chain and to combat the range of threats, whether cyber criminals, or state sponsored attacks,” said the U.K. Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and the National Cyber Security Centre.
The FCC has banned the use of broadband buildout subsidy money from Huawei and is considering extending that ban. The Congress has also disallowed the use of government contract money for the Chinese telecom's tech.
“Great Britain’s decision to allow Huawei to build ‘non-core’ parts of the 5G network is a terrible decision, period,” said Mike Rogers, chairman of 5G Action Now and former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. “Allowing Huawei access to any part of your network — core or otherwise — is a recipe for disaster as even a non-core door is still a door to a critical communications network. I worry that by the time London realizes this, it will be too late to close the barn door and the digital horses will be in Beijing’s stables.”
"I am disappointed by the UK’s decision today, especially since the security risks are so well understood," said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), vice chari of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "But under current circumstances, I remain committed to working with the UK and other key allies to build more diverse and secure telecommunication options that provide competitive alternatives to Huawei. I have introduced legislation that seeks to accomplish that, including a Multilateral Telecommunications Security Fund, and hope the UK will commit to partnering on this effort in the coming months. It is critical that countries committed to building and maintaining secure networks come together. Current financial support by China for Huawei puts any Western alternative at a serious disadvantage.”
But not everyone was similarly concerned.
“This is extremely good news for Huawei,” said Dimitris Mavrakis of tech advisory firm ABI Research. “We are thrilled to see the British government taking informed advice from their security advisors and telecoms service providers regarding this contentious issue and not submitting to the pressure induced by geopolitical tactics. This move will encourage other governments to take similar initiatives and welcome Huawei back to the list of key suppliers and innovators in the 5G era.”