What is Huawei?
Huawei was founded in 1987 in Shenzhen, southern China, by Ren Zhengfei, a former army officer. It started making communications equipment for mobile phone networks and is now a global leader, employing 180,000 workers.
Huawei is a Chinese multinational technology company. It provides telecommunications equipment and sells consumer electronics, smartphones and is headquartered in Shenzhen, Guangdong. Although successful internationally, Huawei has faced difficulties in some markets, due to claims of undue state support and cybersecurity concerns—primarily from the United States government—that Huawei’s infrastructure equipment may enable surveillance by the Chinese government. With the development of 5G wireless networks, there have been calls from the U.S. to prevent the use of products by Huawei or fellow Chinese telecom ZTE by the U.S. or its allies.
Which countries are concerned about Huawei?
But Huawei says this is not relevant: “When Ren Zhengfei was a young man, you needed to be a CPC member to have any position of responsibility.”
Washington has banned US firms from doing business with Huawei, and wants its allies to ban it from their 5G networks. Australia and New Zealand have joined the US. Germany has put off making a decision – at least until the next EU summit in March.
For the UK, using Huawei equipment may hit vital UK-US trade talks. US has warned such a decision could risk future security co-operation. But if the UK had banned Huawei from 5G, it could have faced Chinese retaliation.
5G: What are the issues?
Many countries are preparing to move from 4G to more advanced 5G mobile networks. Download speeds 10 times faster than today will radically change how we work, communicate and stream videos.
In principle, controlling the tech at the heart of these networks could give Huawei the capacity to spy or disrupt communications during any future dispute. This is important, as more things – from self-driving cars to fridges, baby monitors and fire alarms become connected to the internet.
The concern is that state-sponsored hackers could use these devices, which often have weaker security features, as back doors into strategically vital networks. For instance, this could make it possible to shut down a rivals’ power stations.
What role will Huawei have in the UK?
The Chinese company will be banned from supplying equipment to “sensitive parts” of the network, known as the core.
In addition, it will only be allowed to account for 35% of the kit in a network’s “periphery”. It will be excluded from areas near military bases and nuclear sites.
The core is essentially the phone network’s heart and brain. It is where voice and other data is routed to ensure it gets to its where it needs.
Is Huawei spying on us?
The US argues China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law, which says organisations must “support, co-operate with and collaborate in national intelligence work”. Means Beijing could force Huawei to do its bidding.
Huawei says it’s never been asked to spy and “would categorically refuse to comply”. It adds: “We would never compromise or harm any country, organization, or individual, especially when it comes to cyber-security and user privacy protection.”
Are there alternatives to Huawei for 5G?
To monitor the company, the UK has set up the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre, which comes under the National Cyber Security Centre.
It says it has never found evidence of malicious Chinese state activity. But that it has identified some serious defects in Huawei’s software engineering and cyber-security competence. it can be dangerous. The UK says risks will need to be managed, and it will have several 5G suppliers to avoid depending on one firm.