Is Hauwei technology a spying concern to the West? The debate rages on.

Christine Horton, Contributing Editor

January 29, 2020

2 Min Read
5G on a digital background

The U.K.’s decision to let Huawei continue to use its technology as part of its 5G network has been met with mixed responses from industry experts.

The Chinese firm has been banned from supplying kit to “sensitive parts” of the network and will only account for 35% of the equipment – such as radio masts – elsewhere . It will be excluded from areas near military bases and nuclear sites.

However, a statement from U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he “underlined the importance of like-minded countries working together to diversify the market and break the dominance of a small number of companies.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had previously cast doubt on Huawei, suggesting it posed a spying risk, saying “we won’t be able to share information” with nations that put it into their “critical information systems.” On Wednesday, he urged the U.K. to reconsider its decision.

In a statement Tuesday, Victor Zhang, VP, Huawei, said: “We have supplied cutting-edge technology to telecoms operators in the U.K. for more than 15 years. We will build on this strong track record, supporting our customers as they invest in their 5G networks, boosting economic growth and helping the U.K. continue to compete globally.”

A problem for the U.K. government is that is has already invested in Huawei technology and doesn’t want to abandon it now.

Data and analytics company GlobalData notes that “a total ban would have required massive amounts of infrastructure to be torn out at eye-watering expense and would have set the U.K.’s 5G rollout back by years. It was simply never a practical option to ban Huawei completely, but a restriction to non-core areas of the technology enables the U.K. to bow in part to the U.S.’ wishes.”


ReFirm Labs’ Terry Dunlap

However, Terry Dunlap, a former NSA offensive cyber operator and co-founder of cybersecurity firm ReFirm Labs, believes that despite its protests, “the Chinese government is the company’s business partner, which makes the risks to our national security by the company’s technology very real.”

Dunlap says evidence for concern “continues to pile up,” adding that his firm has found several embedded backdoors in Chinese-made gear.

“It’s important to note that Huawei gets its foot in the proverbial door via very attractive pricing that is the result of subsidization by the Chinese government. Their strategy is long-term, slowly over time, adding more and more pieces of communications gear until the eventual switching costs you would face from a nonsubsidized replacement option become huge. We cannot be penny wise and pound foolish.”

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About the Author(s)

Christine Horton

Contributing Editor, Channel Futures

Christine Horton writes about all kinds of technology from a business perspective. Specializing in the IT sales channel, she is a former editor and now regular contributor to leading channel and business publications. She has a particular focus on EMEA for Channel Futures.

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