The British government should rip out Huawei's 5G mobile network equipment regardless of the facts because doing so would curry favour with Donald Trump's US, Parliament's Defence Committee has said in an extraordinary new report.
The Conservative-dominated committee said in this morning's report, The Security of 5G, that the UK's "closest allies, including the United States and Australia, originally embarked on a [Huawei] policy at odds to that of the UK. This had the potential to damage the UK's close intelligence, security and defence relationship with them, although reassurances have been given by Ministers that this was not the case."
It continued: "The Government should have considered the potential damage to key alliances enough of a risk to begin to remove Huawei from the UK's 5G network before the US sanctions were imposed."
The Committee said it support the US UK Government's decision to dump Huawei from the infrastructure of next generation networks by 2027 but said fluidity in the deadline must be baked in.
"However, the Committee note that developments could necessitate this date being moved forward, potentially to 2025 which could be considered economically feasible. The Government should take necessary steps to minimise the delay and economic damage and consider providing compensation to operators if the 2027 deadline is moved forward.
In news that will prick up the ears of telco industry-watchers, the committee also called for more use of OpenRAN in the UK market, something with the potential to reduce dependence on name-brand vendors. The committee noted: "The UK Government and mobile service operators should continue investment in OpenRAN technology and work to make the UK a global leader, not just in technological development, but also in production."
The report approvingly quoted US senator Tom Cotton, a close ally of President Trump and a firm opponent of Huawei. In June Cotton described the Chinese company as "a criminal organisation" to the committee during a Parliamentary hearing, belligerently asking Labour's Kevan Jones MP: "Why would you be so eager to use this technology?"
The committee also called for Samsung and NEC to enter the UK market alongside current players Nokia and Ericsson, echoing Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden's calls to diversify the UK 5G market.
Tobias Ellwood, Conservative MP and chairman of the Defence Committee, said in a canned statement: "We must not surrender our national security for the sake of short-term technological development. This is a false and wholly unnecessary trade-off."
Paradoxically, his own committee's report stated: "The Government's most recent restrictions on the use of Huawei in 5G networks will delay the 5G rollout and economically damage the UK and mobile network operators."
Nonetheless, Ellwood continued: "A new D10 alliance, that unites the world's ten strongest democracies, would provide a viable alternative foundation to the technological might of authoritarian states, whose true motives are, at times, murky. Democracies the world over are waking up to the dangers of new technology from overseas, that could inadvertently provide hostile states access to sensitive information through the backdoor."
One could interpret Ellwood's comments as calling for some kind of Five Eyes Plus alliance based on science and technology cooperation, though with Huawei having led the world in 5G innovation, implementation and production, it is difficult to see how the West could leapfrog ahead.
With that said, nobody has presented evidence of Huawei equipment having backdoors – though a fed-up National Cyber Security Centre said in its latest HCSEC report that Huawei's software development processes remain pisspoor despite years of nagging. ®