The final say on whether to allow Huawei a role in the development of the UK’s 5G mobile network is set to be left to new prime minister Boris Johnson, after the government confirmed it has delayed an expected decision on the issue.
A ruling on whether the Chinese firm is to be banned from the UK’s next generation of mobile networks was expected to be made this week as part of a telecoms supply chain review announced by culture secretary Jeremy Wright, but the resignation of Theresa May and sanctions imposed on the firm by the US have delayed the process.
Mr Wright told the House of Commons yesterday (July 22nd) it would be wrong to make any specific decisions on the future of Huawei until the US’ position towards the company is made clearer.
“These measures could have a potential impact on the future availability and reliability of Huawei’s products, together with other market impacts, and so are relevant considerations in determining Huawei’s involvement in the network,” he told MPs.
Previously, a meeting of the National Security Council chaired by outgoing prime minister Theresa May opted to ban Huawei from critical parts of the UK’s 5G network due to security concerns, but continue to allow it some access to less sensitive parts.
However, this decision was controversial, and leaked reporting from the meeting, which suggested some cabinet ministers wanted to take a tougher approach, led to the sacking of defence secretary Gavin Williamson.
Network operators and Huawei itself have warned that any moves to prohibit the use of the firm’s hardware in 5G networks would lead to higher costs and delays in the rollout of 5G as companies will have to find alternative suppliers.
Victor Zhang, vice-president at Huawei, said: “The evidence shows excluding Huawei would cost the UK economy £7 billion and result in more expensive 5G networks, raising prices for anyone with a mobile device.”
He added the firm has been operating in the UK for 18 years and remains “committed to supporting BT, EE, Vodafone and other partners build secure, reliable networks”.