Huawei pins its UK hopes on Boris Johnson’s fibre plans

The UK’s new Prime Minister has inherited the difficult Huawei decision and the Chinese vendor has wasted no time in applying some gentle pressure.

While campaigning for the top job, Boris Johnson pledged to deliver full-fibre broadband to every single person in the UK by 2025. Many, including this publication, scoffed at the blind optimism of it all, but Huawei seems to see it as an opportunity to demonstrate how important it remains to the UK economy.

Speaking during Huawei’s first half financial announcement, Huawei’s President of Global Government Affairs, Victor Zhang, had plenty to say about the UK. “Boris Johnson has mentioned many times the importance of delivering ultrafast fibre broadband to rural areas,” he said. “We strongly support this vision and are committed to helping the UK deliver it. Rural fibre broadband isn’t just important for connectivity to the home, it will also help power 5G in remote communities.

“The fibre availability in the UK has had a big gap compared to elsewhere. I fully support the UK government and the new Prime Minister to deploy full fibre in the UK. It’s critical for productivity and economic development and in helping remote communities flourish. We can’t deploy 5G in these areas without fibre.”

Ah yes, 5G. That’s the biggie for Huawei, with the US continuing to pressure the UK into an outright ban of the company from participating in any part of its 5G network. With Johnson and US President Trump apparently on good terms Huawei must be privately fearing the worst, but it has to hope Johnson remains open to all sides of the matter.

He at least doesn’t seem to feel rushed into making a final call one way or the other, as the decision to postpone it once more last week would seem to imply. Huawei is choosing to derive optimism from this. “We welcome the support of the UK government with the supply chain review,” said Zhang. “These new regulations are an important step to ensuring robust security and the best technology for all. Personally, I believe the UK will continue to make the right decisions in terms of using the best technology.”

As important as the Huawei decision is, Johnson can’t really afford to think about anything other than Brexit for the next three months as, if he screws that up, there’s a good chance he won’t even be in power anymore. If we finally do properly leave the EU that would probably be bad for Huawei as it would presumably make the US more influential in setting our foreign policy, but that remains a big if.

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