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White House ramps up pressure on UK to drop Huawei

US officials have launched a last-ditch attempt to stop Downing Street from allowing Huawei to participate in the rollout of Britain’s 5G network.

The US secretary of state Mike Pompeo will ramp up pressure on Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, during a meeting in Washington today, Reuters reports.

The intervention comes as Britain is expected to make a decision this month on whether the Chinese telecoms equipment giant should play a part in the 5G rollout.

According to a leak, the National Security Council agreed last year that security concerns associated with Huawei’s equipment could be mitigated if its components were used only in non-core parts of the 5G network.

The government had been expected to make an official decision on Huawei over the summer, but it published its review of telecoms security in July without making a judgement either way.

The then culture secretary Jeremy Wright said that a US trade ban imposed on the firm’s suppliers “could have a potential impact on the future availability and reliability of Hauwei’s products”.

Wright revealed the UK had “sought clarity on its extent and implications but the position is not yet entirely clear”. “Until it is we have concluded it would be wrong to make specific decisions in relation to Huawei but we will do so as soon as possible,” he added.

The Trump administration has launched a fierce lobbying campaign against Huawei over recent months, threatening to cease sharing intelligence with allies that use the company’s components in their 5G networks.

US officials have raised concerns about the company’s alleged links to Beijing and claim it could be forced, under Chinese law, to comply with intelligence investigations. Huawei claims that the US campaign is linked to its trade war with China, has stressed that it is independent of the Chinese government and denied that it poses a security risk.

A spokesperson for the firm told NS Tech that MPs had confirmed its equipment would not be used in channels used to share intelligence. “We are confident the UK government will take an evidence-based approach when making its decision about Huawei’s inclusion in the 5G network,” the spokesperson added.

The UK is in regular touch with the US on a range of issues, said a government spokesperson, who added: “The security and resilience of the UK’s telecoms networks is of paramount importance. The government continues to consider its position on high risk vendors and a decision will be made in due course.”

What would a ban on Huawei mean for operators?

The UK’s mobile operators have already taken steps to remove Huawei components from the cores of their 4G networks. But the first deployments of 5G also run across 4G infrastructure.

Given the lack of compatibility between different vendors’ 4G and 5G equipment, a ban on Huawei participating in the 5G rollout means operators would also have to remove its equipment from the non-core of their 4G networks. Telecom analysts estimate that a total ban could push back the rollout of 5G in the UK by several years.