Britain Delays Decision on Huawei’s Role in 5G Networks

July 22, 2019 Updated: July 22, 2019

LONDON—Britain on July 22 postponed a decision on whether Huawei could participate in building next-generation 5G mobile networks until it had a clearer picture on the impact of U.S. measures taken against the Chinese company.

“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,” Digital Minister Jeremy Wright told parliament.

Until the U.S. position was clearer, Britain had concluded it was wrong to make specific decisions in relation to Huawei, but would do so as soon as possible, he said.

Huawei, the world’s biggest telecoms equipment maker, is at the center of a geopolitical tug-of-war between China and the United States.

The United States has threatened to cut off intelligence sharing with allies who use Huawei equipment, which it says China could exploit for spying.

China, in turn, has warned Britain that excluding Huawei could hurt investment and trade.

Britain’s National Security Council, chaired by outgoing prime minister Theresa May, discussed the issue in April and decided in principle to block Huawei from critical parts of the 5G network but give it limited access to less sensitive parts.

A final decision was supposed to have been included in a telecoms supply chain review published by Wright on Monday, but May’s resignation has stalled the process.

Wright said Britain could decide to ban Huawei from the 5G network completely, a move telecom operators have said would delay the rollout of services and significantly add to costs.

EE, the BT-owned market leader, launched its 5G network, which relies in part on Huawei’s equipment, in May. Vodafone has also started UK 5G services.

“It is of course a possibility and remains so that the government may decide that an outright ban on Huawei equipment in the 5G network is the appropriate course of action,” Wright said.

“All that I say today is that we are not yet in a position to make a comprehensive decision about that and as soon as we are then we will.”

By Paul Sandle

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