A UK intelligence agency does not believe banning Huawei equipment from 5G rollouts is warranted, a development which could also provide a boost for the under-fire vendor across Europe.
Citing comments from sources familiar with the matter, Financial Times (FT) reported the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) concluded it is possible to limit the risk of using Huawei’s kit in 5G networks in the country.
While the comments are unconfirmed, a NCSC representative told Mobile World Live in a statement that it has “unique oversight and understanding of Huawei engineering and cyber security”, while adding it has concerns around its equipment and it has set out improvements it “expects the company to make”.
An official government review to determine whether Huawei can be used in UK 5G networks, which the NCSC is contributing to, is expected to be published in March or April.
FT’s sources said the NCSC’s conclusion would “carry great weight” with European leaders, as the UK has access to sensitive to US intelligence through its membership of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing network.
The US, Australia and New Zealand, which are also members of the intelligence network, have already implemented 5G bans on Huawei and compatriot company ZTE. The US has pressured its allies to take the same stance, arguing Huawei’s equipment contains backdoors allowing the Chinese state to spy on other nations.
Huawei has long denied such links exist: founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei recently stated that while he loves his country and supports the Communist Party of China “I would never do anything to harm another country or another individual”.
The US argues that the fact 5G will be so fast and have many military applications means the risk of using Chinese telecoms equipment is very high.
However, FT reported the UK and Germany remain unconvinced.
A source said: “Other nations can make the argument that if the British are confident of mitigation against national security threats then they can also reassure their publics and the US administration that they are acting in a prudent manner in continuing to allow their telecommunications service providers to use Chinese components as long as they take the kinds of precautions recommended by the British.”
Questions surrounding Huawei led to Vodafone Group pausing installation of new Huawei core network equipment across its European operations, while BT-owned EE has said it will strip Huawei equipment from its core network within two years.
France, Norway and Poland are also reportedly considering bans.