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UK pursuing international alliance to exclude Chinese 5G tech

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According to a report in The Times, the UK government is lobbying for an alliance of 10 democratic countries which could pool support for 5G technologies and avoid dependence on Chinese companies.

The report says that the UK government approached Washington to discuss the possibility about forming the 'D10' alliance. This would include all G7 countries (UK, US, France, Germany, Canada, Italy, Germany) as well as Australia, South Korea and India.

Under the proposals, the countries would create an alternative pool of 5G equipment and other technologies, with a view to allowing members to exclude Huawei from their telecommunications networks. The Shenzhen-based company, which is the world’s largest telecommunications manufacturer, has been entirely or partially excluded from several countries’ infrastructure on account of alleged national security concerns.

Huawei has consistently denied allegations made by US authorities that it could pose a national security risk.

The UK government announced in January that Huawei would be permitted a limited role in the UK’s 5G infrastructure, despite pressure from the White House to take a stronger line against the company. Under these rules, network operators will be allowed to use Huawei equipment for up to 35 per cent of their non-core radio access networks. Some vocal Tory backbenchers, however, are calling for the government to exclude Huawei from 5G networks entirely from 2023.

This could present a serious challenge to operators, particularly as there is a very small handful of companies which provide 5G equipment and none as cheaply as Huawei.

A source in Whitehall told The Times: “We need new entrants to the market. That was the reason we ended up having to go along with Huawei at the time.”

The alliance would encourage more companies based in democratic countries to compete in the 5G space or could channel investment into existing companies which provide 5G equipment, such as Nokia (based in Finland) and Ericsson (based in Sweden).

Earlier this month, the White House announced that it would impose further sanctions against Huawei in September, restricting its ability to use software and electronics with US origins and disrupting its ability to supply 5G equipment. Following the announcement, the UK government asked the National Cyber Security Centre to review how this would affect Huawei’s ability to provide equipment for the UK’s 5G networks. The review is expected to conclude that the sanctions would make it unfeasible for UK operators to use Huawei technology.

The conclusions of the review could allow Prime Minister Boris Johnson to push for the complete removal of Huawei from UK telecommunications networks by 2023, appeasing Tory rebels.

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