Huawei wins approval to plonk £1bn optical comms R&D facility in UK's leafy Cambridgeshire

'We want to promote UK tech on a global scale' – aw, nice of you

Chinese comms bogeyman Huawei has won approval to build a £1bn optoelectronics R&D facility in South Cambridgeshire, UK, near the leafy village of Sawston.

Huawei's new campus will be situated on 500 acres of land acquired by the company in 2018, and will feature over 50,000 square metres of office space. When operational, the firm claims it'll directly create over 400 new jobs, and become one of the cornerstones of its broadband technology division.

Optoelectronics focuses on the control and observation of light through electronic systems. It is one of the essential components of fibre-optic networking, which sees data represented as light, which is then transmitted through glass or polymer-based cables.

In a statement, Huawei veep Victor Zhang praised the UK's "vibrant and open market" and talent, adding: "Through close collaboration with research institutes, universities, and local industry, we want to advance optical communications technology for the industry as a whole, while doing our part to support the UK's broader Industrial Strategy. Ultimately, we want to help enshrine the UK's leading position in optoelectronics and promote UK tech on a global scale."

Last year, Huawei's Carrier Business Group – which includes fixed-line networking technologies, in addition to the wireless products the company is increasingly known for – produced 34.5 per cent of the overall revenues, according to the 2019 Huawei Annual Report. Overall, turnover in this sector was RMB 296.7 billion, or £33.77bn at the current exchange rates.

Huawei hasn't published figures showing how that revenue splits between fixed-line and mobile customers, although it's known that BT's Openreach has long been a customer of Huawei, which provides equipment powering its FTTP exchanges.

This R&D investment predates Huawei's current woes with the US government, which have spilled over into the UK, particularly when it pertains to future 5G sales.

As yet, it's unclear whether this new development will soften hearts in Westminster – cash always helps – allowing it more unfettered involvement in the UK's networks.

Ministers are said to be considering plans "to prohibit the purchase and installation of new equipment from 2023", a U-turn on a previous leaked report saying would slash Huawei usage to zero in the next three years. ®

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