'No technical grounds' for UK Huawei ban

2019-07-16 08:22:10China Daily Global Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

A parliamentary committee has told the United Kingdom government there are "no technical grounds" for banning the use of equipment from Chinese telecommunications company Huawei in Britain's 5G network.

In a letter to Jeremy Wright, the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, member of Parliament Norman Lamb said a ban on Huawei kit "would not constitute a proportionate response to the potential security threat posed by foreign suppliers".

Lamb is the chair of the UK Science and Technology Committee, which recently concluded a public evidence session in which it interviewed security officials, telecommunications executives, and other stakeholders about Huawei's operations in the UK.

"There are no technical grounds for excluding Huawei entirely from the UK's 5G or other telecommunications networks," Lamb wrote. "Banning Huawei would also reduce market competition, giving network operators less leverage on equipment vendors to demand high security standards."

But he said beyond technical considerations, there may be "geopolitical grounds" for the government to ban Huawei's equipment. Both New Zealand and Australia have joined a United States-led company boycott.

"Consideration must be given to the UK's ongoing cooperation with its major allies," Lamb said.

The US put further pressure on the UK on the weekend. According to correspondence seen by The Sunday Telegraph, US President Donald Trump's administration has warned that a failure to ban Huawei could jeopardize the UK's chances of cutting a favorable trade deal after Britain leaves the European Union.

In The Sunday Telegraph's report, an unnamed civil servant said a UK refusal to ban Huawei would be viewed as "undermining Washington's efforts to reinvigorate the World Trade Organization".

On Sunday, Reuters reported that the US could soon ease restrictions on US companies wanting to sell goods and services to Huawei. In May, Huawei was placed on a US Commerce Department list, prohibiting US companies from providing equipment to the Chinese company. But US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross indicated that select sales may soon recommence in cases that are not deemed a threat to national security.

The UK is yet to state if it intends to enact a full or partial ban on Huawei equipment. The determination is expected in a pending telecommunications supply chain review. Publication of the review has been delayed, and is now expected to come after UK Prime Minister Theresa May is replaced by Boris Johnson or his Conservative Party leadership rival Jeremy Hunt.

Some UK mobile providers are already in the process of rolling out 5G, and Lamb urged the government to issue the review by the end of August at the latest.

"The communications network operators estimate that a complete exclusion of Huawei from existing or future networks could delay the rollout by two or three years," said Lamb. "The outcomes of the government's telecoms supply chain review will therefore clearly influence the timing of the deployment of 5G in the UK, as does the delay in its publication."

As things stand, all four UK major operators plan to limit Huawei's involvement to "non-core" infrastructure, such as radio access networks. They will be hoping that, if the UK government introduces a ban, it will only relate to the most sensitive areas of British networks.

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