Securing the spilt, UK and its removal of Huawei Infrastructure | Nathan Wilson


Within the field of International Development, the topic of cyber security rarely filters into the mainstream headlines in contrast to issues around Brexit and Coronavirus. One such example of this is the ongoing cyber struggles within the field of 5G and which side various nations find themselves on. The so-called ‘Great Cyber Spilt’ is between nations that reject Huawei’s involvement in their telecommunications industry (US, UK, India, Vietnam and Australia) and those that have embraced it (Brazil, Mexico, Russia and the Philippines (notwithstanding China itself)).

The emergence of such a shift towards an increasingly polarising approach to 5G telecommunication infrastructure, will only further increase the following years it would seem. However, nations like the UK have used their trade deals as a means of both separately securing levels of digital cooperation between more aligned nations on such matters. This has been best demonstrated with the ‘UK-Japan Digital Cooperation’ Partnership, as best documented by Hiroki Sekine for Chatham House: found here.

The ability for a nation to secure both its public and private sector telecommunications remains evermore vital with a world stemmed in technological complexity and their informational complex systems.

As explored in a previous article: found here. The issues of using Huawei in the creation and maintenance of various nation’s 5G networks have been numerous. Most recently, this has been shown in the Netherlands when the Chinese telecommunication company that is Huawei has been accused of listening into all audio calls within KPN (Dutch telecommunications company, UK equivalent being something like BT) own networks.

The exposure of such allegations came from the consultancy firm Capgemini, who documented such claims via a secret report in 2010. The report in question had been authorized by KPN to examine potential risks around Huawei infrastructure within the Netherlands. This does not help when in 2012 a seventeen year old just on his own hacked into KPN and other things around the world, according to ZDNET.

Besides these more present examples that Huawei presents, it was announced recently that the UK had begun to finally remove the large amount of present Huawei infrastructure in the country. Now that all UK telecommunication operators are forbidden to use any of Huawei’s RAN (Radio Access Network) infrastructure. Any equipment placed into any networks before the ban, now must be removed before 2027.

As such, according to TechRader “BT has allocated £500 million for the purchase of replacement kits from Ericsson and Nokia”. This would mean that for the UK’s telecommunications systems, “Nokia will become BT’s biggest single supplier of RAN technology, while Ericsson will be used in the busiest parts of the network”. This would suggest that the UK, besides removing Huawei from their systems, is now replacing them with a combination of various telecommunications companies from around the world. Nokia being Finnish, NEC being Japanese, Sony Ericsson joint Japanese-Swedish and Vodafone of the UK being just a few examples.

Although presently it remains important to acknowledge the delay of fully rolling out 5G networks in the UK due to the present Huawei infrastructure in place, what remains great about such actions is that this has firmly placed the UK in its stance against this foreign telecommunication company. The ability for a nation to hold firm of its own communications is no different than that of its water or energy security. Therefore, the physical removal of such infrastructure should be seen as a major step in the right direction for both the country and its personal security systems.

Many different nations around the world (as previously shown within Germany), also hold various percentages of their present communications infrastructure with that of Huawei. The formation of this split has meant that other nations will have to do similar and soon, due to the potential risks having such equipment can hold.

What returns currently lacking within this present discourse is a full conversation around why other aspects of China’s telecommunications presently still exist within the country now that Huawei is banned.

In the following article, I will explore why Huawei is still in the UK and its ‘partnerships’ with some 35 UK universities. Examining various research centres that exist at the UK’s universities and what should be done about such matters.


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