The UK Government’s decision to permit Huawei to continue its 5G operations is a sensible economic and logistical decision considering current infrastructure.
The company has been integral to the 3G and 4G networks across the UK and has been used in the country for over a decade. A Huawei spokesperson highlighted the firm’s 15 year working relationship with the country claiming “British experts are clear our technology does not pose a security risk”.
Banning Huawei from the 5G network would have led to the removal of the firm from the existing 4G infrastructure. This would have delayed the implementation of 5G across the country and resulted in significant capital outlay.
Huawei technology is not only cheaper but is regarded as being more advanced than that of rivals Nokia and Ericsson. Through not banning them from the 5G network the UK government has avoided the issue of removing competition which could have negatively impacted phone bills.
Internal opposition to Huawei
Prime Minister Boris Johnson opted to reach an agreement with Huawei despite opposition from within his own party and from the US government.
Restrictions imposed include being banned from the core, sensitive areas of the network, and from areas near military and nuclear sites.
The UK has had extensive experience working with Huawei, and managed the firm’s UK activities through the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre. The UK government therefore has a more complex understanding of the security concerns than others in the international community.
Owing to current capabilities, the UK government should be well versed in how to incorporate the technology effectively into a 5G network whilst limiting security issues.
UK agreement with Huawei may complicate US relations.
The US conflict with Huawei is well documented with the Trump administration having actively looked to dissuade the UK from pursuing a deal. In 2019, the US banned the sale of components and technology from Huawei and 68 related firms.
US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, earlier this month looked to exacerbate the issue claiming that British sovereignty could be compromised.
The leading role of the US in the campaign against the company already influenced decisions of other nations. In 2018, both Australia and New Zealand opted against using Huawei technology for their 5G networks due to security concerns.
US concerns are more complicated than the potential security risk. Washington is undoubtedly wary of the firm’s growing influence and the rising technological power of the Chinese state; therefore it seems intent on limiting the company’s influence.
The US government had previously stated that any agreement with Huawei would lead to a review of security arrangements but UK officials saw it as a bluff. However, with post-Brexit trade talks scheduled for the coming weeks the decision may well influence the near future.