A senior US cybersecurity official used a speech in parliament to urge the UK to ban Huawei from the rollout of 5G mobile networks.
Huawei has long been excluded from America’s telecoms networks on national security grounds based on fears the company is required to install backdoors that could be used to shut down critical infrastructure or facilitate state-sponsored espionage.
And last month, US firms were ordered to stop doing business with the company, a decision which means future handsets may no longer receive updates for Google's Android operating system or access its popular applications. The US government’s actions also make it significantly harder for Huawei to source components for its devices.
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America is pressuring allies to follow its lead, despite the absence of any evidence to suggest any wrongdoing from Huawei, and the UK is carrying it out its own assessment. A report was expected to arrive in the Spring but has not yet materialised. Leaks suggested that operators will not be banned from using Huawei kit in the radio layer of their networks, but this has yet to be confirmed.
Robert Strayer, deputy assistant secretary of state, has previously stated that intelligence sharing between the US and UK could be affected if Huawei has allowed to participate in Britain’s 5G rollout.
And, according to the Financial Times, he has now told MPs to take action.
“Given what is at stake and the uncertainty surrounding a rapidly evolving technology, we believe that using untrusted vendors anywhere in a 5G network introduces an unacceptable level of risk that cannot be mitigated,” he is quoted as saying.
Huawei has repeatedly denied allegations of wrongdoing and told the newspaper it rejected the “latest round of unsupported allegations by the US in London.”
Strayer’s visit comes during the Tory leadership election, which has been interpreted by some as an effort to influence candidate’s views on the matter.
Front runner Boris Johnson has not made his views clear, but Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has previously said the UK is “listening” to America’s warnings. Outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May has so far pushed back against Washington’s pressure.
Huawei’s telecoms equipment in the UK is already subject to monitoring, while UK operators have consistently opposed any restrictions on sourcing Huawei equipment.
They believe it often to be more innovative and cost-effective than other options, arguing there is no proof that it is insecure. All four operators plan to use Huawei gear in their 5G infrastructure, although not in the core layer.
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