British officials propose limited 5G role for China's Huawei: Sources


London: British officials have suggested giving Huawei a limited role in Britain's future 5G network to meet U.S. demands for a complete ban on fears of Chinese espionage, two knowledgeable people told Reuters.

The recommendation, made at a meeting of senior government officials on Wednesday, precedes a UK National Security Council meeting next week to decide how to use Huawei devices.

The officials suggested that Huawei be excluded from the sensitive, data-intensive "core" of the network and from restricted government systems. This reflected a preliminary decision made under former Prime Minister Theresa May last year.

"The technical and political guidelines have not changed," said one of the sources, who spoke anonymously about private conversations. "Now it comes down to a political bill."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "Work on high-risk providers in the 5G network is ongoing and will be announced to Parliament."

Huawei declined to comment. The company has repeatedly and vehemently denied allegations of espionage.

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Britain is at the center of a geopolitical tug of war for Huawei, the world's largest manufacturer of mobile network devices.

In the first major test of Brexit Britain's foreign policy, the Johnson government must weigh its "special relationship" with the United States against valuable trade relations with China and warnings from industry that Huawei's ban will cost billions of dollars and delay its entry into the UK would of superfast 5G connections.

The proposed solution is a "calculated compromise" that may be presented to Washington as a strict restriction for the Chinese company, but is also accepted by British operators who are already using the company's equipment, one source said.

Any decision by the UK to even give Huawei a limited role in its 5G networks is likely to anger US officials who claim that Huawei devices could be used by China to spy or sabotage and threaten to share information with allies who refuse to do so , restrict networks.

British intelligence officials have charged Huawei with failing to fix security vulnerabilities in its equipment. However, they have found no evidence of government espionage and believe that they are able to successfully manage the risks posed by the company.

The two largest British telecommunications providers BT and Vodafone have also spoken out against a complete ban.

Vodafone is currently using Huawei in the outer parts of its network, but has essentially halted deployment last year until western governments have given the company full security clearance.

BT also uses Huawei devices in non-core networks. It also excluded Huawei from tendering for its future 5G network.

BT and Vodafone declined to comment.