Huawei is confident the UK will allow its equipment to form part of the country’s 5G infrastructure, its global head of government affairs said on Friday morning.
A decision on what role – if any – the Chinese telecoms giant’s equipment could play in the UK’s network is expected to be made by Theresa May’s successor as prime minister.
It follows a government review into supply chain security which is understood to have included an assessment from the intelligence agencies of whether Huawei’s equipment poses a national security risk to the UK.
As the UK approaches its exit from the European Union and seeks a trade deal with the US, it is expected that the country would align itself with America’s approach.
The US has warned its allies that it believes unequivocally that Huawei does pose such a risk.
White House officials have stated that Washington would have to reassess information-sharing relationships if allies chose to allow Huawei’s equipment to be installed in any part of their 5G infrastructure.
But speaking to journalists in London on Friday morning, the company’s head of government affairs, Victor Zhang, said he expected the UK to “make a smart decision, the right decision” to ensure it developed “advanced digital infrastructure”.
“I am confident that the UK will choose Huawei for the future 5G development,” he added, although he did not comment on whether he believed the company’s role would be limited to the core or edge of this network.
Core equipment – network switches, gateways, routers, and bridges, essentially the kit that controls how and where data is sent – is what Huawei really does, although it is also a dominant force in edge equipment, including radio transmitters and receivers.
But part of the generational advantage of 5G is how its equipment blurs the distinctions between these core and edge elements of the network, with much of the critical computing taking place closer to the edge in 5G.
Speaking to journalists on Thursday, the US deputy assistant secretary for cyber security Robert Strayer said that Washington would have to assess the UK’s network itself if Huawei was allowed a role in its 5G infrastructure.
He said: “One of the most important responsibilities that we have as US government officials [is] that we protect our sensitive information, sensitive information that we’ve acquired.
“And people put themselves sometimes at substantial risk to acquire that information. Therefore, we need to ensure that that information is only transmitted on high security environments.
“We consider Huawei to be a substantial risk to the communications infrastructure.
“Therefore any country that deploys Huawei equipment in any part of its 5th generation infrastructure will be a network… that we need to assess ourselves and make a determination about how we will respond going forward.”
A spokesperson for the government told Sky News: “The security and resilience of the UK’s telecoms networks is of paramount importance.
“We have robust procedures in place to manage risks to national security and are committed to the highest possible security standards.
“The telecoms supply chain review will be announced in due course. We have been clear throughout the process that all network operators will need to comply with the government’s decision,” they added.
In the face of criticism and suggestions of impropriety, Huawei has consistently pointed out that there has never been any evidence suggesting its equipment is more faulty or suspicious than that of its competitors.
A spokesperson for Huawei said: “We have always said if people have evidence around the accusations they should publish them and we’d be happy to address those concerns.
“To date no one has published that kind of evidence, there’s never been any evidence in 30 years of operation of the business that our equipment has been used for espionage.”