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Donald Trump and Theresa May at Official opening ceremony of NATO SUMMIT 2018.

May warns UK businesses to consider impact of Trump’s Huawei ban

Image credit: Gints Ivuskans | Dreamstime.com

Theresa May has warned UK mobile operators to weigh up the impact of US President Donald Trump’s ban on Huawei, expressing how the ban could influence UK firms’ decisions about using the Chinese telecoms firm’s technology as part of its 5G networks.

According to May, a UK review of 5G supply chains will be published “in due course”. However, she indicated that British firms may already be taking Trump’s actions into account.

Trump’s administration has argued that Huawei’s connections to the Chinese government mean it could allow Beijing to spy through its equipment, urging other countries to avoid using its technology whilst developing 5G networks. Huawei has repeatedly denied the accusations.

Recent reports have suggested the UK Government is considering allowing Huawei to be part of certain 'non-core' aspects of the 5G network despite the US concerns.

The US has put Huawei on a so-called 'entity list', or blacklist, effectively banning American firms from selling components and technology to the firm. May has suggested that this trade barrier executed by Trump may already be changing the thinking process of firms.

Speaking at the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan, May said: “The decision by the United States for Huawei to be put on the entity list has obviously brought another factor into this issue and individual companies will be wanting to consider what the impact of that has.”

When asked by the BBC whether Trump’s actions has made the UK’s review pointless, May said: “First of all, the review is not into Huawei, the review is into the use of different vendors within our 5G system looking into the future. That review will of course report in due course.”

“What we want to ensure is that we have good resilience in our networks, we have good cyber security,” she continued. “I also want to see an increased diversity of providers of equipment that can be used in 5G and indeed in the next generation.”

Pressed on Trump’s approach, she added: “Of course individual companies will be making decisions about their own rollout of 5G and we have yet to see the full impact of the US entity listing of Huawei.”

Huawei's UK managing director, Anson Zhang, has insisted “nothing has changed” for users of the Chinese company’s phones, despite the US trade ban.

Zhang acknowledged there has been “confusion” and “uncertainty” around the company’s devices, although he sought to offer reassurance that its devices would continue to receive software and security updates in both the short and long-term, adding that users “do not have to worry”.

“Obviously, there are some challenges right now, I think everybody knows that, but the situation from our side is that nothing has changed,” he said.

Chief technology officer at Nokia Bell Labs, Marcus Weldon, highlighted a recent report from US security firm Finite state, which examined security flaws in Huawei’s networking equipment.

Weldon told the BBC: “We read those reports and we think okay, we’re doing a much better job than they are.”

“Some of it seems to be just sloppiness, honestly, that they haven’t patched things, they haven’t upgraded,” he added. “But some of it is real obfuscation, where they make it look like they have the secure version when they don’t.”

Despite the Chinese telecoms company making its way onto the ‘entity list’, American companies including Micron and Intel are selling components to the Chinese giant after finding a way to circumvent the trade ban.

According to a report by the New York Times published this week (June 25), companies have generated millions of dollars in sales to Huawei over the last few weeks by shipping components that were manufactured outside of the United States.

Earlier this month, the UK’s digital minister, Jeremy Wright, warned British telecom companies that they should exercise caution about using Huawei-made technologies in view of the recent ban on the company in the US. Furthermore, Robert Strayer, the US cyber chief, warned that China will use Huawei as a gateway to ‘spy, steal and attack’ information from the UK.

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