Business / Tech

Britain waits for U.S. cue before Huawei 5G decision

AFP-JIJI

Britain said Monday it was “not yet in a position” to decide what involvement China’s Huawei should have in the U.K.’s 5G next-generation telecom network.

Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright told parliament that London was still seeking clarity on the implications of U.S. action against the Chinese telecom giant, adding it would be “wrong to make specific decisions” beforehand.

“The government is not yet in a position to decide what involvement Huawei should have in the provision of the U.K.’s 5G network,” he said.

The sensitive decision, which the U.S. authorities are monitoring closely, will therefore not be taken by the departing administration of Prime Minister Theresa May, who leaves office on Wednesday.

The decision will fall to her successor, either former London Mayor Boris Johnson or Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

The new prime minister will have to decide whether to ban, partially admit or allow Huawei’s complete involvement in the new 5G telecom network.

Huawei faces pushback in some Western markets over fears that Beijing could spy on communications and gain access to critical infrastructure if the company is allowed to develop foreign 5G networks.

The company has repeatedly denied such allegations.

In May, Huawei was hit by an executive order from U.S. President Donald Trump that effectively banned it from trading with any U.S. companies, although a temporary license was issued shortly after.

“Since the U.S. government’s announcement, we have sought clarity on its extent and implications but the position is not yet entirely clear,” Wright said.

“Until it is, we have concluded it would be wrong to make specific decisions in relation to Huawei but we will do so as soon as possible.”

Vodafone launched its 5G service in Britain this month, but without smartphones from Huawei.

By sidelining Huawei phones, Vodafone has mirrored action by EE, the first U.K. provider to roll out the technology that offers almost instantaneous data transfer that launched at the end of May.