Friday, 26 June 2020 07:57

Huawei gets green light to set up £1b research centre in UK Featured

Victor Zhang: "The UK is home to a vibrant and open market, as well as some of the best talent the world has to offer." Victor Zhang: "The UK is home to a vibrant and open market, as well as some of the best talent the world has to offer." Supplied

Chinese telecommunications equipment vendor Huawei Technologies has been given the green light to invest £1 billion (A$1.8 billion) in a research centre close to Cambridge in the UK that will focus on chip research and manufacturing.

In a statement, the company said it had bought 500 acres of land in Cambridge two years ago for this purpose. The first phase of the Huawei Campus was approved by the local council on Thursday, with a 9-1 vote.

This phase will include construction of 50,000 square metres of facilities across nine acres and directly create 400 local jobs, the company said, adding that once it was fully operational it would become the international headquarters for Huawei's optoelectronics business.

"The UK is home to a vibrant and open market, as well as some of the best talent the world has to offer," said Huawei vice-president Victor Zhang.

"It's the perfect location for this integrated innovation campus. Through close collaboration with research institutes, universities, and local industry, we want to advance optical communications technology for the industry as a whole, while doing our part to support the UK's broader Industrial Strategy.

"Ultimately, we want to help enshrine the UK's leading position in optoelectronics and promote UK tech on a global scale."

huawei centre

An artist's impression of what the new research centre will look like after completion. Courtesy Huawei

The company said Thursday's approval for the first phase of the project came after three years of work and planning, with the search for a location starting back in 2017. Huawei has 1600 employees in the UK and this is its 20th year of operation in the country.

The British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, reported that the three-hour South Cambridgeshire District Council meeting, which voted on the proposal, was occasionally heated, with the lone member trying to block the research centre accusing Huawei of trying to push its plans through by taking the approach of a trojan horse.

Deborah Roberts, who introduced a last-minute mition to delay the vote, was quoted as saying: "I do not like Trojan Horses being wheeled through gates, whoever they are being wheeled by.”

Roberts was told to be quiet by the committee chair, John Batchelor, who was unable to vote due to the poor quality of his Internet connection. The Telegraph said he later joked that he "needed some new technology".

The US has been campaigning for more than two years to try and push countries it considers allies to avoid using 5G equipment from Huawei in their networks. Thus far, only Australia and Vietnam have said openly that they would follow the American lead.

Japan, South Korea and Poland have indicated that they are likely to toe the US line, but have yet to make public pronouncements.

The UK broke ranks with the US in January, saying it would allow Huawei to supply up to a third of equipment for non-core parts of its 5G networks but has more recently twice reportedly changed stance, once saying it would remove Huawei gear completely by 2023 and later saying it would block the use of such equipment after 2023.

Since then, India, the UAE and Cambodia have said they would allow Huawei to participate in 5G trials. But New Delhi may change its mind in the wake of border clashes with China earlier this month.

The British Government is in the midst of a review of its policy after pressure from the US.

That policy was announced by Boris Johnson's government. Prior to that four British telcos — Vodafone, O2, EE (a BT unit) and Three — had all rolled out 5G networks, and used Huawei gear in non-core parts of the network.

The companies relied on interim advice from the government of Theresa May, leaked in April 2019, that this would be the government's final stance..

Spanish group Telefonica owns O2 and it has used Huawei’s infrastructure in some of its other networks. O2 has no wide use of Huawei in the UK, but has a network-sharing agreement with Vodafone.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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