Huawei Will Supply 5G Equipment After All That Faff

By Holly Brockwell on at

Prime Minister Theresa May has given a big thumbs-up to Huawei's involvement in rolling out our 5G network, as long as it's not allowed to do the "core" bits.

The government has been having a big faff about whether or not Huawei should be involved in 5G for months, going backwards and forwards between no big risk, a bit of a risk, and a Big Honking Risk.

Now, it's taken its characteristic choice of the safe middle ground, whereby the company can be included – because it's one of the biggest and cheapest suppliers and avoiding its products would set us back significantly – but in a controlled way, just in case it turns out all the rumours about spying were true.

The Five Eyes, a deeply sinister-sounding alliance of the UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, are still divided on the issue, with the US urging the other countries to exclude Huawei from 5G altogether. Australia has taken the same approach, barring both Huawei and fellow Chinese company ZTE.

Huawei, meanwhile, has always said it's not spying, and accused the US of having a "loser's attitude."

The issues with the company aren't entirely about spying, in any case: the "shoddy" engineering work of the company would cost us billions, according to GCHQ's head of telecoms equipment Dr Ian Levy:

"The security in Huawei is like nothing else – it's engineering like it's back in the year 2000 - it's very, very shoddy.

We've seen nothing to give us any confidence that the transformation programme is going to do what they say it's going to do."

Unsurprisingly, then, not everyone is happy about the decision to work with Huawei on 5G. Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Tom Tugendhat, for instance:

Tugendhat also told the Today programme that it's not as simple as just saying we won't let them do the important bits, since 5G is an "internet system that can genuinely connect everything, and therefore the distinction between non-core and core is much harder to make."

What do you think of the decision – a good way to ensure we're at the forefront of 5G, or a bad move for national security? We're fascinated by this whole palaver, so let us know your thoughts in the comments.