Dec 28, 2018 05:33 AM

U.K. Defense Secretary Voices ‘Grave’ Concerns over Huawei

Huawei faces several setbacks globally to introducing its 5G technology and equipment. Photo: VCG
Huawei faces several setbacks globally to introducing its 5G technology and equipment. Photo: VCG

Britain’s Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson voiced “grave” concerns over the role of Huawei Technologies in the U.K. rollout of the next-generation wireless telecom network, according to the British newspaper The Telegraph.

Williamson joined a chorus of officials in several countries pushing back against the Chinese telecom giant. The secretary said during a visit to Ukraine Wednesday that the British government has cybersecurity concerns about Huawei’s involvement in the U.K.’s fifth-generation, or 5G, wireless infrastructure.

“I have grave, very deep concerns about Huawei providing the 5G network in Britain,” Williamson said, according to the newspaper. “It's something we'd have to look at very closely.”

Williamson is the first senior U.K. official to express concerns over Huawei’s 5G technology, following a flurry of leaders from countries that include the United States, Australia and Canada. His comments came after the leading British carrier, BT Group PLC, removed Huawei equipment from its core networks earlier this month.

“We’ve got to look at what partners such as Australia and the U.S. are doing in order to ensure that they have the maximum security of that 5G network, and we’ve got to recognize the fact, as has been recently exposed, the Chinese state does sometimes act in a malign way,” Williamson was reported as saying.

The coming 5G technology is expected to transform daily lives and revolutionize the digital economy. China has raced to develop 5G technologies and intends to start testing commercial-quality 5G services in 2019. It could roll out national commercial networks in 2020.

Huawei, the world’s largest telecom equipment provider and a leading player in China’s quest to seize global leadership in 5G development, has faced significant pushback in its 5G business as the U.S., Australia and New Zealand have banned Huawei from providing equipment to domestic carriers, citing national security concerns. The U.K. and Canada are the remaining members of the “Five Eyes” security alliance that have not done so.

Huawei and its peer, ZTE, have come under heavier scrutiny abroad over fears that their equipment could be used for spying. U.S. President Donald Trump is considering an executive order in 2019 to ban U.S. companies from buying equipment from Huawei and ZTE, according to Reuters.

Founded by a former Chinese military engineer, Ren Zhengfei, Huawei has long denied links to the Chinese military or government. ZTE has also denied allegations its products are used for spying.

Despite global setbacks, Huawei has pledged to continue investing in its 5G technology.

“In the face of a crisis of confidence from the West, we must do our own work well,” Chairman Liang Hua said Tuesday. “We believe that customers will make their own decisions.”

Liang said Huawei has already obtained 26 commercial 5G contracts globally. Last week, the Czech Republic backtracked on its claims against Huawei as the country’s National Security Council said in a statement that previous warnings against Huawei made by the cybersecurity watchdog were not based on technical analysis.

Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, Ren’s daughter, was arrested in Canada earlier this month on the request of U.S. authorities in relation to alleged violations of sanctions against Iran. Meng has been released on bail and awaits court decisions on whether she will be extradited to the U.S. to face fraud charges.

Despite uphill international battles, Huawei’s revenue is set to increase. The Shenzhen-based company expects its 2018 sales to reach $108.5 billion, up 21% from last year and 6 percentage points higher than Huawei’s earlier target.

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