The latest sanctions imposed on Huawei by the US have had a “severe” impact on the company’s evaluation by GCHQ
Back in January, when the UK government first took the decision to allow Huawei limited access to the UK’s 5G network, excluding them from the core and limiting them to 35% market share, UK security services praised the decision; indeed, prior to the announcement, head of MI5, Sir Andrew Parker, shrugged off qualms about working with Huawei.
Now, however, the playing field has changed dramatically.
Recent months have seen Huawei dealt blow and blow by the US government, the latest of which will do serious damage to the company’s supply chain and may scupper their role in UK 5G as a result.
The latest move by the Federal Communications Commission effectively stops Huawei from gaining access to US tech, which will be hugely disruptive to the company’s supply chain, especially in the semiconductor sector. This move is expected to have major ramifications not only for Huawei itself but for the entire industry, with some postulating that Huawei will be forced to expand and develop its own domestic supply chain.
It is here that the issue arises as far as the UK is concerned. Currently, Huawei equipment is manufactured, at least in part, by US companies trusted by the UK security services. Without access to these US parts, Huawei’s new supply chain will be predominantly little-known to UK security services, who cannot therefore guarantee their associated risk.
“UK intelligence services can therefore no longer provide the needed assurances that Chinese-made equipment is still safe to use in the UK’s telecoms network,” said Sir John Sawers, former head of MI6.
GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre is expected to present a report to PM Boris Johnson later this week, with Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden likely to recommend Huawei be phased out by 2029.
In fact, the phase our programme could come much sooner as a result of political pressure – not only from the US, but also internally. Rebel MPs lost a vote back in March that would have seen the phase out of Huawei from UK 5G infrastructure take place over the next three years; now, this same group is threatening further rebellion if the Chinese company is not phased out before the end of the current parliament, due to finish in 2024.
Naturally, this news will come as a delight to the US, which has been lobbying against Huawei for years now. However, there are some sections of the industry in the UK that do not share such warm sentiments, seeing the impact of the US sanctions as effectively dictating UK policy.
Just how quickly could Huawei be phased out and how expensive would it be? Find out from the experts at this year’s Connected Britain
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