In Depth

Will Huawei be banned in the UK?

Government-backed watchdog releases damning report on the Chinese tech giant

Huawei’s involvement with the UK’s telecommunications industry poses “risks” to national security, a Government-backed watchdog has announced. 

A damning report from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which is part of GCHQ, claims that the Chinese tech giant’s products had “underlying defects” that “significantly increased risk to UK operators.” 

The NCSC added that it could provide “only limited assurance that the long-term security risks can be managed in the Huawei equipment currently deployed in the UK”.

According to the BBC, Huawei currently supplies products to UK telecoms companies and is currently being evaluated as a provider for the country’s 5G network, a mobile connection that promises significantly faster services than today’s 4G network. 

But the broadcaster says the report echoes “deep frustrations” at the company’s failures to “address previously identified problems” with its telecoms products.

It also raises questions over the company’s presence in Britain’s consumer market.

Why is Huawei a risk to national security?

Several nations have expressed concerns about Huawei using its telecoms products to “assist in Chinese state intelligence work”, a practice that the company has “repeatedly denied”, The Daily Telegraph reports.

The NCSC says it found no evidence of Chinese-backed state espionage, and that its findings were related to “basic engineering competence and cyber security hygiene that give rise to vulnerabilities”, the Financial Times reports. 

Huawei is considered as one of the key firms developing 5G network infrastructure, which makes it a particularly alluring supplier for telecoms companies.

David Wang, an executive director at the tech giant, has said that the firm is “starting a self-transformation that is a difficult and painful process which will take place in the next three to five years”, and that it would take time for it to address the NCSC’s concerns, The Telegraph reports. 

Will Huawei be banned from the UK?

No, at least not at the moment. The report doesn’t call for a ban on the company’s 5G network products or consumer smartphones, but it does question whether UK telecoms operators should use Huawei’s services, The Guardian notes. 

A spokesperson for the NCSC told the newspaper that “Huawei’s presence in the UK is subject to detailed, formal oversight.”

“The report details some concerns about Huawei’s software engineering capabilities”, a spokesperson for Huawei said. “The issues identified in the report provide vital input for the ongoing transformation of our software engineering capabilities.”

Australia and New Zealand, who are members of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, of which the UK is a member, have already banned Huawei from being a vendor for their 5G networks, Sky News reports. 

Meanwhile, the company has been banned from selling any products, including its smartphones, in the US over national security fears.

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