The UK government’s decision to allow Huawei to supply mobile operators with 5G telecoms equipment is unlikely to be revisited, according to a senior official.
Simon McDonald, permanent undersecretary and head of the diplomatic service at the foreign ministry, told lawmakers that the government position had been strongly considered and that a reversal was unlikely.
“As you know ... the government decided to proceed with an investment but with very strict conditions ... As far as I know that ... is a firm decision and is not being reopened,” he is quoted as saying by Reuters.
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Huawei UK 5G
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, a view pushed and shared by the US. America has placed significant pressure on its allies, despite not providing any evidence to support its claims. The company has persistently denied any allegations of wrongdoing.
Operators had argued innovation would decrease and costs would rise if they were barred from Huawei’s 5G gear and it appears as though the government eventually decided there was no alternative.
In January, it was confirmed that Huawei equipment could be used in the radio layer of 5G networks but not in sensitive areas like the core – effectively preserving the status quo. However Huawei kit is subject to a 35 per cent cap.
The US has urged the UK to rethink its stance but Huawei has warned against any reversal of the government ruling, citing the importance of communications technology during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
Washington has effectively frozen Huawei out of the US market, blocking American suppliers from working with the company and offering federal funding to smaller carriers to strip out equipment. The money is to be used to purchase kit from an alternative vendor like Nokia or Ericsson.
These sanctions, coupled with the impact on consumer demand caused by Covid-19 have slowed growth at Huawei. Revenues rose just 1.4 per cent in Q1, amounting to 182.2 billion CNY (£20.9bn).
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