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Government must learn lessons from Huawei 5G row when embracing new tech say MPs

Martyn Landi, PA Technology Correspondent
·2-min read

The Government must learn from the security issues which have plagued the building of 5G networks and create a new strategy for embracing emerging technologies, MPs have said.

In a new report, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee said ministers should identify important new technologies and plan for any associated risks and the Government’s response.

The proposals are in response to the rollout of 5G in the UK, which saw Chinese firm Huawei ultimately excluded from the process on security grounds, leaving the country reliant on only two equipment vendors while causing a likely delay to the full installation of 5G networks.

The Government has launched a scheme to diversify the supply chain in 5G, but that is expected to take years to achieve success.

Now MPs on the committee have urged the Government to learn from the episode and better plan for the uptake of other technologies in the years to come and prepare for all aspects of its implementation.

Greg Clark MP, chair of the Science and Technology Committee, said: “A lack of strategic foresight in 5G has seen the UK become dependent on only two vendors for a crucial technology.

“We must learn from this experience to avoid making our economy and security vulnerable from a lack of acceptable alternatives in emerging technologies.

“AI and quantum technologies are just two examples of fields of development which can greatly advance the prospects for our economy and society, but can pose potential threats.

“While the committee welcomes the Government’s 5G diversification strategy, it has come too late and contains little by way of detail.

“The Government needs to take an activist approach to encouraging research and development, and must now cooperate internationally to build common regulatory approaches with like-minded nations.

“As technologies develop at an ever faster rate, more time must not be lost. In a White Paper, the Government must urgently lay out a strategy for the most important technologies of the future to avoid repeating the supplier squeeze we have ended up with in 5G.”

A Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport spokeswoman said: “The security and resilience of 5G and other emerging technologies is a top priority and our £250 million strategy to tackle this global issue head-on is the first of its kind in the world.

“We are working at pace with international and industry partners on solutions and establishing a National Telecommunications Lab to open up new economic opportunities in mobile technology.”