UK opens new review of Huawei's role in British networks

British officials have reportedly been asked to draft a plan to reduce Huawei's involvement in 5G to zero by 2023. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - The UK government is launching a review into Huawei Technologies Co. as officials draw up a plan to reduce the Chinese tech giant's involvement in new generation mobile networks over the next three years.

The British moves follow an announcement from the Trump administration this month of fresh US curbs on China's largest technology company.

The UK now needs to look again at the potential impact that fresh US sanctions against Huawei could have on British networks, officials said. That review will be conducted by the government's National Cyber Security Centre.

"The security and resilience of our networks is of paramount importance," a spokesman for the British government said in an e-mail.

"Following the US announcement of additional sanctions against Huawei, the NCSC is looking carefully at any impact they could have to the UK's networks."

Huawei represents a political headache for Prime Minister Boris Johnson. His administration decided in January to give Huawei a limited role in 5G wireless networks and fibre, while capping its market share and restricting it from the network core, which sees and controls sensitive information.

But President Trump and his team reacted with dismay to Johnson's decision, souring relations between the two allies at a time when Britain is seeking to strike a new trade deal with the US as it leaves the European Union.

The US warned allies that Huawei poses a security threat, saying the company's technology could be vulnerable to Chinese spies. Huawei has always denied these allegations.

Senior members of Johnson's Tory party also raised concerns over his plan to allow Huawei a role in so-called non-core parts of the 5G network.

British officials have now been asked to draft a plan to reduce Huawei's involvement in 5G to zero by 2023, according to recent reports in British newspapers, confirmed by a person familiar with the matter.

"Our priority remains to continue the roll-out of a reliable and secure 5G networks across Britain," Huawei Vice-President Victor Zhang said.

"We are happy to discuss with NCSC any concerns they may have and hope to continue the close working relationship we have enjoyed for the last ten years."

China's handling of the coronavirus pandemic triggered calls from prominent members of Britain's ruling Conservative Party for a rethink of the push for closer ties between the two countries.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said it could not be business as usual with Beijing after the pandemic.

Tories have warned that it will be harder for Johnson to get his 5G plans through Parliament in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis.

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