Ever since the Trump administration decided to act against Huawei’s 5G global expansion due to security and health issues, the Chinese company has found it difficult to find a market in the West. In the UK, the government is deliberating on whether to allow the firm to set up its domestic 5G network. And it seems as if we won’t have to wait long for an answer.
The UK and Huawei
It was Nicky Morgan, UK’s Digital Secretary, who confirmed last month that the government is close to announcing a decision on Huawei. “I would hope that we could do something by the autumn, but we want to make the right decision and we’ve got to make sure that this is going to be a decision for the long term, making sure we keep all our networks secure,” she said to the BBC. In the UK, autumn 2019 begins on September 23 and ends on December 22.
Back in April, Britain’s National Security Council and former Prime Minister Theresa May were said to have decided to allow Huawei to supply 5G equipment provided the company kept itself away from sensitive parts of the system. However, no further action was taken. With Boris Johnson taking charge as the new Prime Minister, the matter has remained unresolved.
Recently, Ben Wallace, the UK defense secretary, also confirmed Morgan’s statements, saying that a decision on Huawei will be taken soon. However, he did not give a date. The minister did state that any decision on the Chinese company is not just limited to technical aspects of its technology.
“This is also about behavior. You know, it wasn’t that long ago that the United Kingdom and other nations called out China for some of its cyber-activity publicly. If we are going to allow countries access to our market, I think we should all expect a code of behavior that is fair play — we are British, we believe in fair play. So I think that will also be reflected in those discussions,” he said in a statement (The Guardian).
Huawei’s offer to the US
Last year, the Trump administration had passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It prohibited U.S. government departments and contractors from using telecommunication equipment from Huawei. In May, the ban was effectively extended to private companies as well. This essentially locked out Huawei from access to the U.S. market. The trade war between America and China has also complicated the issue.
However, the founder of Huawei, Ren Zhengfei, recently offered a solution — licensing. “[Huawei is] open to sharing our 5G technologies and techniques with U.S. companies, so that they can build up their own 5G industry. That would create a balanced situation between China, the U.S., and Europe… the U.S. side has to accept us at some level for that to happen,” he said to The New York Times.
U.S. companies will apparently be able to change the software code and modify the 5G technologies of Huawei so as to meet America’s security requirements. Though this does not guarantee that there will be no backdoors in the 5G technology that Huawei might exploit in the future. There are no 5G equipment makers in the United States. The country has to rely on Eriksson, Huawei, or Nokia. If Ren’s offer is taken up, America won’t be left behind in the 5G race. But is it worth it? Higher speed movie downloads must not trump a country’s security and the health of its citizens.