British ministers are expected to allow Huawei limited access to the UK’s 5G networks at the National Security Council on Tuesday (28 January), amid concerns over the firm’s links to China’s intelligence services.
While 3G made mobile internet possible and 4G allowed mobile broadband, 5G is expected to become the connectivity infrastructure that will pave the way for new product and services, such as self-driving cars or industrial robotics.
“We are going to come up with a solution (…) to have access to fantastic technology, fantastic communications, but also [to] protect our security interests and protect our key partnerships with other security powers around the world,” British prime minister Boris Johnson told reporters on Monday.
In what some have compared to a “tech Cold War”, Huawei will be only be allowed to supply non-core network equipment, having restricted access to central security systems in the UK, according to Reuters.
This action would place Britain in the middle of a geopolitical tug of war over Huawei, which the US has completely banned from its 5G networks over security risks – and is pushing its allies to do the same.
The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, tweeted on Sunday night that the UK has a “momentous decision” ahead on 5G while endorsing British Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat’s warning about “the real cost” of such decision.
“Sovereignty means control of data as much as land. We need to decide what we’re willing to invest in and who were willing to share our tech with,” said Tugendhat.
“The real costs will come later if we get this wrong and allow Huawei to run 5G,” he added.