The UK wants to work more closely with its allies when it comes to telecoms strategy regarding China, but the US warns it needs to see sterner policy change before it can commit

After much speculation and following the announcement of the latest US sanctions against Huawei, the UK is expected to announce new restrictions against the Chinese vendor’s role in the nation’s 5G infrastructure later this week. However, phasing out one of the world’s largest companies from a sector that has relied heavily on them for nearly twenty years is no small feat, potentially taking a decade to complete and costing operators billions.
But beyond the cost and delays associated with the decision, another important question has yet to be answered: what are the alternatives to Huawei?
Back in January, when the UK first limited Huawei’s position in national 5G infrastructure, the lack of viable alternatives were cited as one of the reasons against a complete ban of the Chinese company. Since then, the political situation has deteriorated considerably, but the lack of alternatives still remains. 
Naturally, the UK has first looked to Huawei’s main rivals in the 5G space, Ericsson and Nokia, who would likely be delighted to receive such a commission.
“In the last 12 or 18 months we have done roughly 100,000 site swaps globally. That is more than twice the number of sites across the whole of the UK, so from a supply chain point of view we have that capability,” said Ericsson’s European president Arun Bansal in a recent interview with Sky.
Now, however, the UK is pushing for its “Five Eyes” allies – the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand – or its so-called ‘D10’ allies, which include the G7 plus India, South Korea, and Japan, to take a more unified stance to telecoms strategy and provide alternatives.
“We cannot just act unilaterally as the United Kingdom,” UK culture secretary Oliver Dowden told said to MPs earlier this month. “The challenge is ensuring that all other countries align with us in treating it with a sufficient degree of seriousness and drive, and that they really want to make this happen.”
For some of the aforementioned countries who have banned Huawei completely, such as Australia, this notion is likely very appealing, but the US says it needs to see more decisive action taken against Huawei before it would consider a joint initiative.
Both the UK and the US are increasingly turning to OpenRAN technology to fill the gap left by Huawei, encouraging more players in the RAN market with direct interoperability. However, OpenRAN is still in its infancy compared to more traditional RAN technology, meaning that it has little to no chance of being able to immediately fill the void left by Huawei.
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