ST. ANDREWS, SCOTLAND - Alex Younger, head of the U.K.’s foreign intelligence agency MI6, said Theresa May’s government must decide if Chinese-owned Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. should be barred from running fifth-generation telecom networks in Britain.
The U.K. is coming under increasing pressure to restrict Huawei after New Zealand, Australia and the U.S. banned the company. While the U.K. has already barred another telecoms provider, ZTE Corp., Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright has yet to rule on Huawei.
“We’ve got some decisions to take here,” Younger said in a question and answer session with students and media at St. Andrews University, Scotland, on Monday. “We need to decide the extent to which we are going to be comfortable with Chinese ownership of these technologies and these platforms in an environment where some of our allies have taken quite a definite position. It’s not wholly straightforward.”
A ban would come as a blow to Britain’s biggest telecom companies, including BT Group PLC, which have given Huawei an important role in their planned 5G networks. Companies have been asked to examine resilience in their supply chains and the government is to decide on next steps following the end of a review period in March 2019.
“With 4G there are specific modes of technology and we developed a very good understanding with Huawei of where we were able to monitor and look at that aspect of their offer,” Younger said, referring to a Huawei oversight board staffed by former intelligence officers. “That is impossible with 5G where the technology is at the edge of the network and spread out very unevenly.”
“This is a nontrivial issue,” he added. “It’s one that needs to be worked on through dialog.” He pointed to China as an emerging threat to national security overall. “Power, money and politics is going East,” he said.