UK Government Allows Huawei to Provide ‘Non-Core’ 5G Kit

The British government has decided to allow Huawei to provide equipment for carriers’ 5G networks, but only ‘non-core’ technology, according to reports.

Prime Minister Theresa May made the decision after a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC), despite apparent concerns raised by foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, home secretary Sajid Javid, defence secretary Gavin Williamson, and international development secretary Penny Mordaunt.

The partial ban will see the Shenzhen giant only able to provide equipment such as antennas, which are not deemed a potential national security risk. However, the distinction between what constitutes the 5G core and non-core has been questioned by intelligence chiefs.

Australian Signals Directorate director-general, Mike Burgess, warned in a speech last year: “The distinction between core and edge collapses in 5G networks. That means that a potential threat anywhere in the network will be a threat to the whole network.”

For its part, GCHQ has been fairly measured in its treatment of Huawei, despite growing pressure from the US to follow its lead with an outright ban.

In a speech in Singapore earlier this year, director Jeremy Fleming, focused on the need for greater competition in the 5G market to improve cybersecurity. That echoed his counterpart at the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), Ciaran Martin, who argued that its evaluation center had found “serious problems with [Huawei’s] security and engineering processes.”

“As we said then, and repeat today, these problems are about standard of cybersecurity; they are not indicators of hostile activity by China,” he continued.

The UK decision will not go down well in Washington, which has already threatened allies such as Germany by claiming it will withhold intelligence information in the future if the country allows Huawei to build its 5G networks, fearing Chinese snoopers may be listening in.

Australia has stood by its Five Eyes partner the US in issuing a total ban on Huawei for 5G networks, while the New Zealand Government Communications Security Bureau is still deciding. The Chinese firm opened a transparency center in Brussels recently in a bid to convince local lawmakers that it poses no threat.

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