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Huawei ban would harm UK's mobile leadership

By Angus Mcneice in London | China Daily | Updated: 2019-06-13 07:28

A customer waits to buy a smartphone at a Huawei store in Beijing. [Photo/Agencies]

United Kingdom mobile operators plan to warn the British government that a ban on Chinese telecommunications company Huawei would jeopardize the UK's role as a leader in mobile connectivity.

Several operators reportedly plan to send a letter to Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill asking the government to urgently clarify whether it intends to allow Huawei to bid for 5G contracts in Britain, according to the BBC.

The UK has been under pressure from the United States to boycott Huawei due to alleged security concerns. UK mobile operators have historically used a substantial amount of Huawei kits when updating network infrastructure.

In a draft of the letter, which was seen by the BBC, the operators expressed frustration that they have had to delay investment decisions while the government debates the Huawei question. The operators also reiterated that a Huawei ban would delay 5G rollout in the UK by up to two years and damage Britain's chances of becoming a world leader in future technologies.

A recent report commissioned by four of the nation's major mobile network companies-EE, O2, Three and Vodafone-claimed that delayed rollout of 5G technology could cost the UK economy between 4.5 billion pounds ($5.9 billion) and 6.8 billion pounds.

The government has been conducting a supply chain review for several months and was expected to reach a verdict on Huawei in late May, though no decision has been made public.

"The Telecoms Supply Chain Review will be announced in due course," a government spokesperson said in response to the BBC report. "We have been clear throughout the process that all network operators will need to comply with the government's decision. The security and resilience of the UK's telecoms network is of paramount importance. We have robust procedures in place to manage risks to national security and are committed to the highest possible security standards."

Last month, The Telegraph reported that the UK government had decided to allow the use of Huawei kits, with various restrictions in place. The Telegraph received the information via a leak from a top-level security meeting. Gavin Williamson was fired from his position as UK defense secretary following an investigation into the leak.

Legislators remain divided as to whether Huawei should be allowed to participate in 5G development.

Some are satisfied that the UK National Cyber Security Council has found no evidence to support the claim that Huawei is involved in acts of espionage.

Others are concerned that if the UK works with Huawei it will damage its relationship with other members of the so-called Five Eyes intelligence sharing community, which includes the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

On Monday, Huawei cybersecurity chief John Suffolk answered questions from a parliamentary select committee concerning the security of the company's equipment.

He told the committee that Huawei had never been asked "to do anything untoward" by the Chinese government.

"There are no laws in China that obligate us to work with the Chinese government with anything whatsoever," Suffolk said.

"We stand naked in front of the world, but we would prefer to do that, because it enables us to improve our products. We want people to find things, whether they find one or one thousand, we don't care. We are not embarrassed by what people find."

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