After a long period of deliberation, it appears that the UK will allow Huawei to access its 5G networks after all. Boris Johnson’s decision could potentially open up a rift with Trump after the US advised allies to place a ban on the firm due to security concerns.
Sunday Times sources claim that Boris Johnson is poised to allow Huawei access to "non-contentious" parts of 5G services in the country. There wasn’t any further elaboration on what this really meant, but it has become increasingly clear over recent months that any ban on Huawei would significantly slow down the UK's 5G rollout.
Previous leaks have also suggested that four of the UK’s largest carriers, EE, O2, Three and Vodafone were all using Huawei technology in their 5G networks. And while it could be a risk to use Huawei equipment, these existing partnerships would make it very difficult to remove Huawei from the UK's 5G infrastructure.
A rift between the US?
If these reports are accurate, it could certainly lead to some conflict with the US. Donald Trump’s administration has warned that giving Huawei access to 5G networks could give the Chinese intelligence services a backdoor into critical national infrastructure.
And the UK’s limited rollout of Huawei access could lead to the country being cut out of crucial intelligence-sharing schemes between the UK and US.
However, if the UK were to refuse Huawei a role in the roll out of 5G, it would be hard to achieve Boris’ goal of bringing "gigabit-capable" broadband speeds to millions of UK homes by 2025. On top of this, he has been warned that banning Huawei could cost up to £7 billion ($8.9bn) due to delays and finding alternatives.
At a critical point in the UK's political history, it would be a brave PM that took a $7bn hit based on intelligence from another country, and we will continue to update the story as news comes in.