Thursday, 09 May 2019 08:51

UK leaves door open for backflip on Huawei role in 5G networks Featured

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Jeremy Hunt and Mike Pompeo addressing a media conference in London on Wednesday. Jeremy Hunt and Mike Pompeo addressing a media conference in London on Wednesday.

The UK has left the door open for a backflip on its reported decision to give Chinese telecommunications vendor Huawei technologies a limited role in the rollout of 5G networks, with Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt saying that London would never take a decision that would compromise its ability to share intelligence with its Five Eyes colleagues.

Hunt made the remarks at a joint media conference with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in London on Wednesday.

The British minister said his country had not yet finalised a decision on Huawei on a government basis and was considering the evidence "very carefully".

On 24 April, it was reported that British Prime Minister Theresa May had agreed to let Huawei supply equipment for the non-core parts of 5G networks in Britain.

That information was leaked from a meeting of the UK National Security Council, an investigation was launched and it ended with the sacking of Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson.

Added Hunt: "But we would never take a decision that would compromises our ability to share intelligence with our Five Eyes colleagues."

The only remark that Pompeo made that was somewhat specific to Huawei was that the US was confident that the UK would never take any action that would break the special relationship between the two nations.

Five Eyes refers to the intelligence alliance of the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Pompeo and other American officials have been threatening other countries that the US would cut off the flow of intelligence to them if they allowed Huawei to participate in the 5G rollouts.

On 30 April, the US said it saw no distinction between the core of a 5G network and its radio access network, and would reconsider sharing information with any ally that used equipment made by Huawei, a statement generally interpreted as a warning to the UK following May's decision.

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.

In March, it was reported that the American envoy to Germany, Richard Grenell, had written to German Economy Minister Peter Altmeier, saying that if any Chinese vendors were allowed to supply equipment for the 5G networks in Germany, then the US would cut down on its intelligence co-operation with Berlin.

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.

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.

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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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