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UK Government Warns Telcos of 5G Security Review

The UK government has reminded 5G network providers to ensure their suppliers are heavily vetted for security, in what could signal a change of approach to a major Chinese telecoms player.

The 5G supply chain of several UK telecoms firms may be impacted by a review of the UK’s infrastructure launched in July, according to a letter penned to the firms by DCMS head of digital, Matthew Gould, and National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) boss, Ciaran Martin.

Although Huawei was not named, the letter stated that the “outcome of the review may lead to changes in the current rules,” according to the FT.

That could be bad news for the Shenzhen giant, which has already been blocked from competition in 5G by the US and Australian governments on national security fears.

Those fears were further stoked by a report in The Australian over the weekend citing a national security source that claimed Huawei staff helped Chinese intelligence “get access codes to infiltrate a foreign network.” It’s a story the telecoms kit maker has strenuously denied.

Even before this, there were signs of a changing relationship with Huawei in the UK, which has historically been more friendly to the firm.

In July, the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (HCSEC), overseen by GCHQ, highlighted significant shortcomings in the firm’s processes that “exposed new risks in UK telecoms networks.”

The report concluded that the HCSEC has “only limited assurance” that Huawei equipment poses no threat to national security.

BT and Three are both said to be working with Huawei on 5G networks.

The move comes as new data reveals the effect of growing US-China tensions on Huawei’s Shenzhen rival ZTE.

The number of ZTE smartphones on prepaid operator shelves fell 48% from June 2018 to September 2018 as carriers backed away from the firm following political pressure, according to GlobalData.

Washington banned US suppliers from selling to it, after it broke an agreement not to sell handsets to Iran and then lied about it.

ZTE has already been labelled a national security risk by GCHQ.

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