A decision on whether Huawei will be able to participate in the UK 5G rollout is set to be delayed by political developments once again, with Bloomberg reporting a ruling will not be made until after the General Election.
Huawei is a key supplier for all four major UK operators but its future role had been uncertain due to fears the use of its kit constituted a national security risk – allegations the company has persistently denied.
MPs and intelligence chiefs have suggested there is no technical reason to exclude Huawei from 5G and that the decision is a political one.
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Huawei UK 5G
A decision was expected in the Spring, with leaks suggestion that former Prime Minister would continue to allow Huawei to provide radio kit, but not equipment for the core layer of the network, where data processing takes place. Given no UK operator plans to use Huawei in their 5G core, such a ruling would effectively preserve the status quo.
However the change in leadership has added further delays, with May’s successor Boris Johnson eager not to upset US President Donald Trump without upsetting China and risking potential trade and investment deals. The US, which has banned Huawei, is urging allies to follow its lead without presenting evidence to support its claims.
After months of deliberation, it was claimed Johnson had come to the same view as May following talks between Huawei and the government and a decision could be made before Christmas. The belief in Whitehall is that other vendors cannot offer alternatives to some of Huawei’s technology, meaning the UK could be left behind if the company was banned.
There are also concerns that the government may not be able to deliver its more ambitious connectivity targets with Huawei kit as operators would be forced to spend hundreds of millions of pounds over several years replacing equipment. Whitehall officials also share the view that the UK has the technological expertise to protect against any threats.
However with a General Election set for 12 December, the matter has been delayed once again, this time until 2020.
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Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.