U.S. Reacts to U.K.’s 5G Defiance

The U.K. is giving Huawei a limited role in its 5G networks. Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer, will provide non-core equipment for the UK’s 5G networks, capped at 35 percent market share with no access to high-security areas like military bases, as Huawei will be deemed a “high risk vendor.”

The United States, including President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has attempted to steer the U.K. away from such a decision. Pompeo asked the U.K. to reconsider Huawei’s involvement, adding that United States information may only go through trusted channels and that the U.S. does not consider Huawei a trusted channel.

The United States is fearful that 5G dominance will aid Chinese influence, making it a key geopolitical issue. The U.S. argues that Huawei is effectively an extension of the Chinese government aiding Chinese intelligence agencies.  “When you allow the information of your citizens or the national security information of your citizens to transit a network that the Chinese Communist Party has a legal mandate to obtain it creates risk,” Pompeo said. Huawei has denied this assertion.

“This is an extension of the Chinese Communist Party with a legal requirement to hand over information to the Chinese Communist Party,” Pompeo said of Huawei. “We’ll evaluate what the United Kingdom did.”

The U.K. argued that leaving Huawei out of the 5G marketplace would hurt consumers, raise prices and delay the deployment of 5G wireless networks. It also argued that the decision is a balance between upgrading infrastructure and national security. “High-risk vendors never have been and never will be in our most sensitive networks,” Baroness Nicky Morgan, the U.K. Digital Secretary said. The decision “paves the way for secure and resilient networks, with our sovereignty over data protected, but it also builds on our strategy to develop a diversity of suppliers.”

The U.K. will leave the European Union on January 31, after which it will have to negotiate its own trade deals; the U.S. is an important trade partner. This could also cause the U.S. to reevaluate its intelligence alliance with the U.K.  Both are members of the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing agreement, which Pompeo reassured would remain in place.