In Brief

UK bars use of Huawei tech in 5G infrastructure

London

16 July 2020

The British government has announced that it will ban equipment from the Chinese tech giant Huawei from its 5G infrastructure.

The move is a victory for the Trump administration, which had campaigned against Huawei on the basis of its ties to the Chinese government. The decision is also a reversal of the UK's position from January, when it was announced that Huawei equipment could be used on a limited basis in its 5G network.

“As facts have changed, so has our approach,” said Oliver Dowden, secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport. “This has not been an easy decision, but it is the right one for the UK’s telecoms networks, for our national security and our economy, both now and indeed in the long run.”

Critics of Huawei have argued that its ties to Beijing mean that the company could be used by the Chinese state for espionage or to disrupt telecommunications – claims the company strongly rejects. A number of countries have hardened their position towards China, however, following the adoption of new laws by Beijing to strengthen its control over Hong Kong.

Huawei criticised the British government's position. “It threatens to move Britain into the digital slow lane,” said Ed Brewster, a spokesman for Huawei UK. “Regrettably our future in the UK has become politicised; this is about US trade policy and not security. ”

The Chinese government also said that it was “strongly opposed” to the UK's “groundless” ban and would “take measures to safeguard” the interests of Chinese companies.

Huawei is the leading provider for towers, masts and other equipment needed to build new 5G networks. Now, Britain's new 5G wireless systems must be built atop existing networks that Huawei had a major role in constructing.