The British government is about to change course on Huawei’s role in its 5G telecommunications network. Six months after agreeing that it could have a limited role, the ministers are expected to exclude the Chinese company, with no new equipment being installed from next year. This decision is partly the result of pressure from Washington. However, the precise timing and details of the disposal will be crucial in determining how the decision is received. In January, after long delays and fierce battles, the government announced that Huawei would be kept away from the sensitive heart of the 5G network and limited to 35% of its other parties’ market share. But now she finds herself reviewing this decision.
One of the main reasons is that the Trump administration has pursued what a British official calls a “relentless pressure” campaign on the company. US officials have said China could use the company as a gateway to “spy, steal or attack” the UK – Huawei denies this and its founder said he would rather close the company than do whatever to damage customers. New sanctions in May limited Huawei’s access to U.S. chip technology. This forced the National Cyber Security Center in the UK to launch a review to understand whether the use of alternative chips would reduce the level of assurance it could offer over Huawei’s presence in the UK. But the decision will relate as much to geopolitics and domestic policy as to technical aspects.