Not too long ago the headlines surrounding Huawei in the U.K. were all some sort of iteration of the Chinese technology companies massive win over the United States. As it turns out, those Huawei celebrations may have come a bit too early.
In early March the U.K. Defence Committee announced that they are launching a formal inquiry into 5G security. This inquiry was spurred in no small part by the country’s earlier decision to allow Huawei products to be utilized in their 5G networks.
Defence Committee chairman, Tobias Ellwood, released a statement about the committee’s decision to launch this security inquiry. “…we will work to understand the legitimate concerns around the decision to allow Huawei to contribute to the 5G network in the U.K.,” said Ellwood. “We will not shy away from tackling the public’s concerns head on.”
For their part, Huawei is incredibly concerned over this given the massive market opportunity the U.K. presents for them. “Over the last 18 months,” the company said in a statement, “the [U.K.] government and two parliamentary committees have conducted detailed assessments of the facts and concluded there is no reason to ban Huawei from supplying 5G equipment on cybersecurity grounds,” said Huawei in a statement.
The U.S. is convinced that Huawei is operating as an intelligence gathering service for the Chinese government, which means utilizing any of their products could give the chinese a potential backdoor for data gathering. As a result, the United States has banned the use of all Huawei products in the country. That ban goes beyond 5G hardware and extends to more common products like smartphones and laptops.
President Trump has remained relatively silent on the issue, particularly on his favorite communication platform Twitter, but that’s like a result of aids urging him to avoid jeopardizing the strategic alliance between the U.S. and United Kingdom. Republican Senators have not been so prudent.
Several GOP senators recently introduced a bill called the Protecting America from Foreign Investors Compromised by the CCP Act. This act would threaten the UK’s whitelist insider status as it pertains to their investments in the United States.
Senator Ted Cruz went so far as to call Huawei “a global espionage operation masquerading as a telecom company…Britain is putting the national security of the U.S. and our allies in jeopardy by allowing Huawei to build its 5G infrastructure,” Cruz continued. “This legislation will help protect the U.S. against the dangers posed by deals such as the one our British allies are pursuing.”
Predictably, Huawei disagrees with the United States. They released a statement regarding the U.K.’s decision to initiate a formal 5G security inquiry. “We have been operating in Britain for nearly 20 years,” reads Huawei’s statement, “and played a vital role in the development and delivery of 3G and 4G for people across the U.K. Cyber Security requires high and common standards across the telecoms industry, which Huawei has always supported. Creating a 5G Britain rightly requires scrutiny and we will work with the Select Committee to address their questions in the coming months.”
If the U.K. decides to reverse its decision regarding Huawei that would be a monumental win for the United States. Huawei had surely hoped to put the U.K. decision behind it and move forward, but that ship has sailed at this point. This is definitely an important story to keep an eye on.