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Huawei awarded partial role in UK 5G networks

06 February 2020

Huawei is to continue to be used in the UK’s 5G networks but with restrictions, despite pressure from the US to exclude the telecoms company.

However the UK has designated the firm a “high risk” vendor and excluded them from core parts of the networks, nuclear sites, military bases and critical infrastructure and is limiting its presence to no more than 35% of non-core networks.

National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) CEO Ciaran Martin comments: “This package will ensure that the UK has a very strong, practical and technically sound framework for digital security in the years ahead.

“The NCSC has issued advice to telecoms network operators to help with the industry rollout of 5G and full fibre networks in line with the government’s objectives."

In response to findings of a Telecoms Supply Chain Review by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) released last summer, Digital Secretary Baroness Morgan said: ”We want world-class connectivity as soon as possible but this must not be at the expense of our national security.”

"High-risk vendors never have been and never will be in our most sensitive networks," she said referring to government and intelligence systems.

This is despite some experts, such as Australian Signals Directorate director-general, Mike Burgess, warning that there is no distinction between core and non-core parts of a 5G network, meaning that a threat anywhere in the network could be hard to contain.

Malcolm Taylor, director of cyber advisory at ITC Secure and former GCHQ intelligence officer, welcomed the UK news as evidence of politicians listening to the UK’s security agencies, who have repeatedly claimed the Huawei risk is manageable.

Huawei maintains that it would never help the Chinese government attack one of its clients. The firm's founder has said he would "shut the company down" rather than aid "any spying activities".