Tuesday, 30 April 2019 10:41

No info-sharing if you use Huawei, US tells UK Featured

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No info-sharing if you use Huawei, US tells UK Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

The United States says it sees no distinction between the core of a 5G network and its radio access network, and will reconsider sharing information with any ally that uses equipment made by Chinese vendor Huawei Technologies in its next-generation telecommunications network.

Robert Strayer, deputy assistant secretary for cyber, international communications and information policy at the State Department, said it was the US position that using gear from Huawei "or any other untrustworthy vendor" in any part of a 5G network was a risk, according to a recording provided to iTWire by the US State Department.

Claims about lack of separation between the core and the RAN of a 5G network were shown to be incorrect last November when, as iTWire reported, a 5G trial in Auckland conducted jointly by Huawei and New Zealand telco Spark used a Huawei 5G NR (New Radio on both the C-band and mmWave) and a 4G Radio Access Network, both of which were deployed by using dedicated hardware connected to the Cisco Evolved Packet Core, with each component isolated.

Similar claims have been made by the director of the Australian Signals Directorate, Mike Burgess, and Nigel Phair, director of UNSW Canberra Cyber, as pointed out by Dr Mark Gregory, a network expert from RMIT University.

Strayer's statement comes less than a week after it was reported that British Prime Minister Theresa May had agreed to let Chinese telecommunications equipment vendor Huawei Technologies play a role in the rollout of 5G networks in the UK.

The leak, from the National Security Council, was unprecedented and an inquiry is underway to find out how it happened.

Five British ministers — Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt — were said to have concerns about Huawei during the NSC meeting.

Strayer said: "If other countries insert and allow untrusted vendors to build out and become the vendors for their 5G networks we will have to reassess the ability for us to share information and be connected with them in the ways that we are today.

"Having potentially compromised equipment and software provided by vendors in any part of that network is an unacceptable risk.

"It is our position in the United States that there is no way that we can effectively mitigate the risk of having an untrustworthy vendor in the edge of the network."

For more than two years, the US has been pushing countries it considers allies to avoid using equipment from Chinese companies, Huawei foremost, in 5G networks. But Washington has produced no proof to back up its claims that these products could be used to spy for China.

Only Australia and New Zealand have fallen in line with Washington's dictates, but Wellington has indicated that the initial refusal for telco Spark to use Huawei gear is not the end of the matter. That stance was reiterated by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during a one-day China visit in April. Huawei sued the US on 7 March, seeking to be reinstated as a telco supplier in the country.

iTWire has contacted Huawei for comment.

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Sam Varghese

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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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