US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — The UK is in talks with a rival of Huawei Technologies for the supply of equipment for fifth-generation mobile networks (5G), while the administration of Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reviewing the British government’s stance towards China in connection with the global coronavirus pandemic, Bloomberg reports.
In May, British officials spoke with representatives of the Japanese technology company NEC Corp as part of efforts to diversify the range of telecommunications equipment suppliers for British 5G mobile networks, an informant familiar with the negotiations said. The government is also considering Samsung Electronics as another possible option to provide critical 5G infrastructure, the source said.
The goal is to move away from reliance on partnership with Huawei in the face of growing political opposition within the ruling Conservative Party of Great Britain and wariness towards China among the UK’s international allies. British officials say that the market needs new participants and their absence was the reason for turning to Chinese Huawei. For months, representatives of the American administration lobbied for the idea that further cooperation with a Chinese firm would adversely affect security relations in London and Washington. US officials warned British ministers that continued work with Huawei could “undermine” intelligence exchanges between London and Washington.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson outraged the Trump administration in January, granting Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei “limited authority” in the development of the 5G UK network, despite US warnings about potential security risks.
The leaders of the British intelligence services, however, advised Boris Johnson to continue cooperation with Huawei. Representatives of British intelligence, counterintelligence (MI5, MI6), the Government Communications Center (GCHQ) and the National Cybersecurity Center concluded that the activities of the Chinese enterprise would not threaten British sovereignty, sources told The Daily Mail. The British authorities recently announced that they will conduct a new analysis of the role of Huawei in the deployment of 5G networks in the United Kingdom.
Boris Johnson, according to the publication, also instructed experts to develop a plan for the country’s self-sufficiency in vital medical supplies and other strategic goods in order to get rid of dependence on Chinese imports. Now, according to experts, approximately 71 of the UK’s most important products are dependent on supplies from China. This includes pharmaceutical ingredients, industrial chemicals, and electronics, including mobile phones and laptops.
Johnson and his closest associates have become much more skeptical of China since the coronacrisis hit the UK. Tori, including administration officials, criticized Beijing for how China dealt with the initial stages of a coronavirus outbreak.
Government officials now believe that it will not be possible to stop Tory’s outrage insisting on banning Huawei’s participation in the country’s mobile networks when the government introduces the bill later this year, people familiar with the matter said.
The political reality of the opposition to Huawei has made it an urgent matter to find alternatives so that the country does not need to rely on Huawei to supply 5G equipment in the long run, sources say.
About a third of 4G base mobile stations in the UK operate on Huawei equipment and the rules introduced in January mean that the company will be able to supply up to 35% of 5G equipment.
British officials were ordered to develop plans to phase out the Chinese company’s participation in British mobile networks by 2023. But at present, no company can completely replace Huawei.
Discussions between the government and NEC focused on launching the company on the UK 5G market, initially through a potential technical development pilot program called “5G Create.” The source of the publication claims that this step means serious intentions regarding diversification and withdrawal from the partnership with Huawei.
Samsung, which currently does not supply 5G equipment to the UK, will be invited to negotiate with the government in the near future as part of a wider proposal to diversify its supply chain, the informant said.
The Department of Digital Technology, Culture, Media and Sports is leading the 5G trial program worth £ 200 million ($ 252 million) to develop a new generation of mobile infrastructure in the UK.
UK digital security officials are considering Huawei’s role in light of the recent additional U.S. government sanctions on a Chinese company that could have a significant impact on UK networks. “The security and resiliency of our networks is of utmost importance,” said one government official.
Political tension intensified after the Covid-19 pandemic. China’s plan to introduce a new security law in Hong Kong, the former British colony, has also raised concern in London. Johnson called on Beijing to step back, but warned that if a new security law was introduced in Hong Kong, it would give 3 million people a chance to seek refuge in the UK.
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