Huawei Reversal Likely to Influence Others in Europe

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Reaction to the U.K.’s decision to reverse course and ban Huawei gear from its 5G networks was almost universally positive on Tuesday. Experts predict the decision will impact other European nations. It comes as the U.S. finalizes a federal contract ban against American telecoms doing business with the Chinese manufacturer.

FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks tweeted: “Glad to see the U.K. finally recognized the need for security by banning Huawei from its 5G networks. Very well done.”

His colleague, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, said he was pleased. “There is an overwhelming consensus that Huawei is in a position to exploit network vulnerabilities and compromise critical communications infrastructure for the benefit of the Chinese Communist Party. The United Kingdom has taken a necessary step to safeguard its national security as it builds out advanced networks.”

Mike Rogers, Chairman of 5G Action Now and former Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, called the decision crucial for the security of British citizens’ data. “The aggressive use of citizens’ data by the Chinese Communist Party to restrict movement and speech—something they are doing in mainland China and will do in Hong Kong—is not something that should be imported anywhere. Using Huawei gear would do just that. Other countries should see this decision as a signal as to just how serious the security threat posed by Huawei gear really is.” 

U.S. officials in May announced new rules aimed at limiting Huawei’s ability to procure chips that it designs for 5G networking gear and smartphones. Those restrictions, coupled with pressure from the administration and a domestic political backlash over China’s actions in Hong Kong and elsewhere, have pushed U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson to change course on Huawei (see lede story.)  

The U.K. decision comes as Germany and other European countries finalize their policies on Huawei and 5G. Germany is expected to make a decision in September, reported Reuters. Deutsche Telekom, Huawei’s largest customer in Europe, opposes blanket bans on individual foreign vendors.

In Italy, Telecom Italia has excluded Huawei from a tender for 5G equipment for the core network it’s preparing to build in Italy and Brazil, two sources told Reuters last week. The head of the French cybersecurity agency on Sunday ruled out a total ban on Huawei 5G network equipment, but said French telcos were being encouraged to avoid switching to the Chinese company. Last month, Singapore chose Nokia and Ericsson over Huawei to build its main 5G networks.

The campaign against Huawei began in 2018 in Australia, when the government banned it after finding it could be exploited for spying. Since then, U.S. allies including Canada, Japan and New Zealand have excluded Huawei from 5G projects, but most European governments declined until recently to follow suit, according to the account.

The administration plans to finalize regulations this week to bar the U.S. government from buying goods or services from any company that uses products from five Chinese companies including Huawei, ZTE, Hytera, Hikvision and Dahua, a U.S. official said. The rule, which was prompted by a 2019 law, could have far-ranging implications for companies that sell goods and services to the federal government. Any company that uses equipment or services in their day-to-day operations from these five companies will no longer be able to sell to the federal government without obtaining a waiver.

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