The U.K. will defy the Trump administration and allow British carriers to use equipment from controversial Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, according to a report published Sunday in the Financial Times.
The National Cyber Security Centre will recommend to the government that the U.K. can mitigate any security risks posed by Huawei equipment, sources told the FT.
The NCSC report will feed into a wider probe led by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, which will publish a recommendation in the coming months as to whether carriers will be allowed to use Huawei equipment in their 5G networks.
The organization would not comment on the specifics of the FT’s report but told VICE News it has “a unique oversight and understanding of Huawei engineering and cybersecurity.” The body also pointed out that it spoke to Huawei about security concerns last year, setting out “improvements we expect the company to make.”
The NCSC added that no final decision has been made and “any suggestion to the contrary is inaccurate.”
Even though the NCSC is only one of the groups feeding into the final government report on 5G, its opinion will likely carry significant weight, given its expertise in this area.
The U.K could become the first of the Five Eyes countries — an anglophone intelligence-sharing network comprising the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand — to break ranks with the White House, which has pushed hard to get global allies to bar the use of Huawei equipment from the rollout of next-generation wireless communication networks.
The U.S. believes Huawei is colluding with the Chinese government to spy on U.S. citizens, though it has yet to provide any credible evidence of this. Huawei has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
Australia and New Zealand have already joined the U.S. in barring Huawei from supplying equipment to their 5G networks, while the other Five eyes country, Canada, says it is currently weighing up a ban.
The BT Group, a U.K. carrier, announced in December that it was removing Huawei equipment from the core of its existing 3G and 4G mobile operations, and said it would not use the Chinese company in central parts of the next network — leading many to predict the U.K. would also impose a ban.
However, a U.K. decision to ignore the U.S. would make it much tougher for Washington to convince other countries to do so.
In the U.K., operators such as Vodafone, Three and EE have already signed contracts with Huawei to deploy its technology for their 5G networks, with the Chinese company offering a compelling combination of advanced technology and highly competitive rates.
Some experts believe that the current uncertainty surrounding the U.K. as a result of the Brexit process has led officials to worry about being left behind when it comes to next-generation technology.
“Beijing knows the U.K. establishment is in turmoil over Brexit,” Declan Ganley, a politician and telecoms entrepreneur tweeted. “The establishment understandably wants to keep all trading options open and fears going into an unpredictable 'unknown'. That's made the U.K. establishment even more vulnerable than usual to regulatory capture.
Cover image: This photo illustration shows a logo of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei at a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur on February 13, 2019. (MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images)