Britain announced today that it will not ban Huawei or other “high-risk vendors” from its 5G wireless network, though it will exclude the firms from sensitive “core” parts of the network. The move comes despite over a year of intense lobbying by the United States government, which has been trying to discredit and ban Huawei to give US technology firms an unfair advantage.
“The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) carried out a technical and security analysis that offers the most detailed assessment in the world of what is needed to protect the UK’s digital infrastructure,” the announcement notes. “The guidance sets out the practical steps operators should take to implement the government’s decision on how to best mitigate the risks of high-risk vendors in 5G and gigabit-capable networks.”
That guidance, available on the NCSC website, recommends that the UK exclude so-called “high-risk vendors”—mostly Chinese technology firms—from its critical national infrastructure, critical ‘core’ functions (the most sensitive parts of the network), sensitive geographic locations including nuclear sites and military bases, and be limited to “a minority presence of no more than 35 percent in the periphery of the network, known as the access network, which connect devices and equipment to mobile phone masts.”
According to the NCSC, “Huawei has always been considered higher risk by the UK government and a risk mitigation strategy has been in place since they first began to supply into the UK.” But the biggest problem with Huawei isn’t that it’s Chinese, as in the U.S, but it’s the company’s products have always had quality and reliability issues. It feels that Huawei provides “low” cybersecurity and engineering quality and finds that its processes are “opaque.”
While this is a “UK-specific solution for UK-specific reasons,” as the report notes, it does impact other countries as well since the UK is part of the “five eyes” intelligence-sharing group that also includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States. The NCSC notes that Huawei’s US ban—it’s on the US Entity List—could “impact the future availability and reliability of Huawei’s products” in the UK.
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