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UK officials formally recommend ‘limited’ role for Huawei in 5G networks

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
The UK will decide whether and how to deploy Huawei equipment in the country’s 5G telecoms networks at next week’s meeting of the UK’s National Security Council. Photo: Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

UK officials have formally recommended that Huawei be granted a “limited” role in the UK’s 5G networks, in spite of US calls for a complete ban on the Chinese company, according to Reuters.

Citing unnamed sources with knowledge of the situation, Reuters said that the recommendation was made at a meeting of senior government officials and security agencies on Wednesday.

It comes ahead of next week’s meeting of the UK’s National Security Council, during which the UK will decide whether and how to deploy Huawei equipment in the country’s 5G telecoms networks.

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A spokesperson for Boris Johnson said, however, that work on the matter was “ongoing.”

“The work on the issue of high-risk vendors in 5G networks remains ongoing and when it is completed it will be announced to parliament,” they said.

The move comes after reports that two of the country’s biggest telecoms groups — BT and Vodafone — were considering writing a letter to warn Johnson of how difficult they would would find it to build out 5G infrastructure if a blanket ban were implemented.

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On Wednesday, Reuters also reported that new EU guidelines will recommend that the bloc’s member countries restrict or even exclude 5G providers that are deemed to be of high risk to telecoms networks.

The guidelines do not mention any 5G provider in particular, but they follow mounting pressure from the US.

US officials have warned the UK that the use of Huawei equipment in any 5G rollout could put intelligence sharing between the two nations at risk.

The US believes that involvement by Huawei in telecoms networks poses a security risk, largely because of the company’s close ties to the Chinese government.