Government Flip-Flops on Huawei Again

By Holly Brockwell on at

After a back-and-forth tenser than a tie-breaking rally at Wimbledon, it seems the government has changed its mind about Huawei once more.

The beleaguered Chinese company has been reviewed and re-reviewed as a potential supplier for the UK's 5G network, and was originally given the OK as long as it doesn't make up more than 35 per cent and stays out of the core.

Now, the UK is reviewing the situation again because the US sanctions against the company have us worried. The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) had already told UK comms companies to stock up on Huawei kit in case of shortages resulting from the sanctions, but now we're apparently reconsidering the whole situation yet again.

Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden (who is a real person despite the job title) told the House of Commons Defence sub-committee:

"Given that these sanctions [...] are extensive, it is likely to have an impact on the viability of Huawei as a provider for the 5G network."

Dowden is hoping Samsung and NEC can step up and provide more equipment to take the pressure off Ericsson and Nokia.

Meanwhile, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said at the same hearing that the US's punitive measures are intentionally designed to strong-arm the UK into changing its approach to working with Huawei:

"It's specifically clearly designed in a smarter way to put countries that have high-risk vendors - specifically Huawei - under greater pressure."

The measures prevent Huawei and its partners from using American-made hardware and software in its products, which is why the P40 Pro had to launch without Google services – a move that decimated its desirability to consumers despite the popularity of its predecessor, the P30 Pro.

Smartly, Huawei got around this by launching a new version of the P30 Pro, which is still allowed to have Google stuff.

The US's sanctions are ostensibly due to security concerns: Washington thinks Beijing might spy on American consumers via their Huawei tech. Spying was also the original concern that caused a review of Huawei in the UK, but our security services decided it was a manageable risk.

Now, it seems we don't get much of a choice thanks to our "special friends" across the pond. Take back control, what what?

Huawei UK boss Victor Zhang said, sounding slightly hurt if you ask us, "we have been in the UK for 20 years and remain focused on working with our customers and the government."

Despite all the faff, Huawei's giant new R&D facility in the UK has been given the go-ahead. [BBC]