The UK government has decided to allow Huawei to continue to be in its 5G networks, despite US officials warning to do so would pose a severe security risk.
Reactions on Twitter:
John Nicolson was also critical of the “broken” Westminster system after the Tory UK Government bypassed elected MPs and set out the details of the key major security decision through an unelected peerhttps://t.co/kBPPgWksWF
— The National (@ScotNational) January 29, 2020
No one’s talking about the Huawei 5G roll out signed off by the UK government; this is a big snub on Trump’s US position.
At the end of the day it is all about the UK’s interest and economy. pic.twitter.com/TCsiZ9Mald
— H.O.B. Makanju (@HOBMakanju) January 28, 2020
Without evidence of #Huawei wrongdoing, UK government’s choice was (a) annoy the Chinese and disrupt our telecoms networks or (b) annoy the Americans and avoid disrupting our telecoms networks. Choice (b) was better.
— John Delaney (@john_p_d) January 28, 2020
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In spite of the persistent pressure from the US, it is not surprising that the UK has finally taken the decision to maintain Huawei technology as part of the nation\’s 5G infrastructure – with certain restrictions. Huawei has been designated a \”high risk\” vendor and as such will be excluded from \”core\” parts of the network and limited to 35 percent access to non-sensitive parts of the network. However, it will still participate in the infrastructure for 5G.
Whilst the US has taken a more hard-line stance, the reality is that a lot of the major UK operators (Vodafone, EE and Three) have already purchased Huawei’s 5G infrastructure which means a ban would have more impact in the UK than the US. If Huawei was taken away as an option, this whole process – including testing – would have to be started all over again. Ultimately any country that does that is facing a more expensive network and a delay that could result in its national infrastructure being inferior compared to other countries.
Although it’s hard to ignore the geopolitical debates which continue to make headlines, it\’s also important to recognise the commercial implications of shunning Huawei, which when compared to other suppliers, is way ahead. Huawei has been pioneering 5G dating back to 2009 and because of this development time, along with the sheer engineering resources that Huawei has put behind it, it makes it the best-placed supplier to deliver it. Overall, the UK has taken the decision not to give its economy a technological and financial handicap against fast-developing nations who have already chosen to use Huawei.
The latest news emerging that Huawei will have a limited role in the UK’s deployment of the UK 5G network, excluded from the core network and capped at 35% is surely going to cause some disagreement between the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance. Irrespective of which vendors are chosen for the UK 5G network they should all be going through a serious Risk and Threat Assessment to determine how to deal with the future cyber-attacks and threats, so this should not be including only Huawei but all vendors must be treated equally.
In my opinion it is good to de-risk technology, so you are not solely dependent on a single point of failure. The use of Huawei will surely mean that encryption is going to be critical to maintain confidentiality of communications as with all infrastructure designs there is usually configuration mistakes or design flaws that could mean sensitive data goes via Huawei equipment at some point in the future.
The downside of this decision is, as we know from the previous assessment released on Huawei, they have poor cybersecurity practices and known vulnerabilities. However, they did commit to improving security by committing to invest $2 Billion. It does mean choosing Huawei will likely result in an increased operational cost to keep the systems patched, harden systems and configure correctly. With all decisions sometimes you are sacrificing security and operational costs by choosing the cheapest hardware and I was once told you are not rich enough to buy cheap things, we must make decisions based on the ROI and Lifespan of the hardware not the upfront costs.
Overall given that the UK are heading for BREXIT and pending trade agreements with the US and EU this decision could impact some of those talks.
The global dispute over whether tech giant Huawei should be used in national 5G networks has created a lot of geopolitical conversations around the 5G build-out, security to Critical National Infrastructure, and generally whether certain vendors should be included or excluded. However, operators need to base their decisions not on these opinions but on technology – the strength, innovation and security capabilities. With the massive increases in bandwidth, number of devices predicted to be on these networks and the growing security requirements, the technology being used must meet these needs.
The UK government is making a calculated risk that stops short of banning Huawei from its 5G infrastructure but still prevents it from holding more than a third of market share and from supplying \”core\” equipment. These cores act as central hubs through which all calls, text messages, and data pass through. The compromise lets the UK take a manageable risk by allowing a potentially dangerous company into its networks in exchange for cheaper and in some cases better-performing equipment.
Given China\’s poor cybersecurity and cyber espionage record, opponents of Huawei are right to be sceptical, but we should also be sceptical of the motives of its market competitors and the politicians they lobby. China has in some cases enforced protectionist policies that prevent Western tech companies from entering or competing in the Chinese market, so countries in the West might be looking to shore up their own telecom industries in kind. China also wants more of a say in how industry standards are developed, and aggressively expanding into Western markets gives it more of a voice in the future development of telecommunication technologies. In the end, it\’s difficult to tell whether Huawei critics are motivated by cybersecurity or politics, but the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle.