A UK parliamentary Committee has concluded that it couldn’t find any technical reason to exclude the Chinese network kit vendor Huawei as a 5G supplier. The Science and Technology Committee wrote a letter to the UK’s Digital Minister Jeremy Wright, which says, “Currently, we haven’t found any evidence to exclude the Chinese Company Huawei from UK’s networks. We also haven’t found it as a threat posed by foreign suppliers.”
However, the Committee goes on to recommend Huawei’s exclusion from the core 5G networks. It also noted that most mobile networks have already excluded it. If there is a formal requirement not to include Huawei for core supply, the committee has requested the UK Government to provide clear criteria for excluding Huawei, so that they can apply this rule on some future 5G supplier.
The Government spokesperson told the press, “The resilience and security of UK’s telecom network are quite important to us. We have strong procedures for managing national security. We will announce the Telecoms Supply Chain review in due time. Throughout the process, we are quite clear that all networks will follow the decisions of the Government.”
In the past few years, the US administration has been pressurizing its allies to enforce a ban on Huawei. They claim that it is a big threat to national security. That’s why Huawei has banned its staff from communication with the U.S. contacts. Due to the U.S. efforts, Australia announced that it is banning Huawei to provide Kit for 5G vendors. However, Europe hasn’t followed the U.S. lead yet, to ban Chinese tech giants from its soil.
A piece of information leaked from a UK Cabinet meeting on April 2019. According to the leak, the Government had settled to grant Huawei access of some domestic part of 5G networks. However, they won’t have access to the core network supply.
On this issue, the Committee writes that they had heard “clearly” from outside sources that the Government is making a distinction of delineating core VS non-core elements of 5G networks. The Committee also mentions a testimony from the Technical Director of UK’s National Cybersecurity system, Dr. Ian Levy. According to him, “geography matters a lot in 5G”. For example, Australia and the UK might have the same technical understanding but there would be different results in each case.
Huawei’s SVP Victor Zhang responded to the Committee’s letter. He welcomed the Committee’s “key” conclusion and said, “We are very happy to hear that the UK, unlike others, is taking an evidence-based approach towards Huawei. We follow all the rules and regulations in many different markets in which we operate.”
However, when you read the report fully, the Committee’s assessment regarding Huawei isn’t comforting. The letter also mentions the Oversight Board’s recent findings on serious software defects in cybersecurity and software engineering. The committee also urged the Government to monitor Huawei closely and always be prepared to restrict Huawei equipment in extreme situations.
The Committee gives a warning to Huawei and states, “It’s quite clear that Huawei needs to improve its cybersecurity standards.” The Committee also suggests that the Government should give more powers to the telecoms regulator, Ofcom so that it forces the suppliers to provide better security. It writes, “It is quite reassuring to hear that the network operators share this viewpoint. However, there are limited powers to enforce it.”
Regarding the issue of making Huawei a 5G supplier, the committee states, “5G security is quite critical and the committee will take all steps to ensure its risks are as low as possible.” The Committee makes clear that the essential services for 5G networks should continue to work, even if the connection disrupts. The Government should take all the necessary steps to counter the events of power outages and cyberattacks.
The Committee concludes at the end that there is no plausible reason to ban Huawei’s access to the 5G network. However, the letter points out that there may be “geographical and ethical reasons to ban Huawei’s equipment”. The Committee also suggests that Huawei should use its technology to counter the horrifying treatment of Muslims in Western China.
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