London’s Calling: Huawei to implement 5G network in the UK

March 2, 2020

2 min read

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What's going on here?

Boris Johnson has approved Huawei’s help to build the UK’s non-core 5G network.

What does this mean?

There has been much contention about whether the Chinese tech company should be allowed to help build 5G networks, due to fears that the equipment is used by the Chinese government to spy on users. The UK approving Huawei’s help comes after Russia approved Huawei’s help to develop their 5G network back in June 2019. 

Donald Trump has been profoundly against the use of Huawei in the USA, banning it in the US completely in May 2019. In light of this, Boris Johnson’s move to work with Huawei is likely to draw criticism from many, not only for the implications of using Huawei but also any diplomatic fall out with the US. 

Despite the controversy surrounding Huawei, this move has ensured that the UK can begin implementing 5G 2-3 years earlier than initially expected. The UK can, therefore, begin the further development and implementation of technological advances like AI or driverless cars.

What's the big picture effect?

Whilst the implementation of Huawei into the UK’s tech network might be a scary prospect, there is no conclusive proof that there is any risk to our communications network. However, amidst public fear, the government has taken positive action to ensure that the country feels safer. As The Independent reports: “Huawei will be barred from the “core” elements of 5G and kept away from sensitive locations like nuclear sites and military bases”. Further, Huawei’s market share has been capped at 35%. 

Although, these measures may not be enough if rumours about spying are to be believed. Having tech giants and the government so closely involved in the communication networks that the public use 24/7, can pose a risk to our data and privacy. For example, in Britain, 72% of mobile connections were 4G in 2019. Therefore, the websites these users are on, the information they are inputting and any clicks they make are potentially exposed. Although, banning Huawei would have reportedly cost “tens of billions of pounds” (The Independent). It can be seen that Huawei provided a financially viable route to implement 5G. The implication of not using Huawei would have been financial, as well as delaying the service by a few years. Though, whether financial cost supersedes public security is another matter. Evidently, the government was prepared to mitigate security concerns in order to provide 5G in a cost-effective and timely manner.

The EU also allowed Huawei to assist in 5G implementation just a day after the UK, but has also asked states to limit core network access. It will be interesting to see whether countries continue to follow in the same vein, or whether the US convinces other countries to ban Huawei’s 5G access.

Catch up on previous news about Huawei’s 5G network and the surrounding controversy with our reports here and here.

Report written by Harina Chandhok

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