UK Government delays Huawei 5G decision once again

The UK Government has announced the decision on whether Chinese vendor Huawei has a place in the UK digital economy will be delayed until after the General Election in December 12.

Once again, politicians are refusing to make a decision, putting the progress of the UK towards the much-heralded digital economy at risk. During the summer, former-Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright kicked the can due to the Prime Minister change-over, though now it has been confirmed the industry will remain in purgatory, with the earliest decision likely to be in the New Year following the General Election.

“The Foreign Affairs Committee has been investigating the way the autocratic states intervene in democracies,” said Chair of Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Tugendhat.

“Many members have been concerned about the Chinese technological dominance, nowhere more than in the 5G market. I wrote to the DCMS secretary to ensure that no decision would be made in the tail end of the government.

“I’m pleased to hear that a decision that could nest a hostile state’s technology deep in the central nervous system of the UK communications network will be taken by a new administration after a full debate.”

Although it has taken some time to bed in, it does appear US pressure is paying off. Tugendhat referenced the relationship with allies in the ‘Five Eyes’ partnership as one of the reasons for the delay. The US and Australia have taken official positions to ban Huawei, and it does appear the UK Government is concerned with future trade relationships, with Brexit of course a consideration.

With the US still determined the presence of Huawei equipment in an ally’s network could enable the Chinese Government to spy on it, the UK is seemingly wary of negatively impacting future relationships following the divorce from Europe.

For the telcos, this is a slow-brewing nightmare. After taking an aggressive position with one of the first 5G deployments worldwide, the telcos are being forced into a slow-down from Parliamentary inaction. There are of course numerous different factors to consider, however due to parallel developments, all largely Brexit related, it seems little attention has been paid to the Huawei decision.

None of the telcos will be happy with this situation, as uncertainly is the enemy of progress, though Vodafone and Three will be particularly irked. Both have factored Huawei into 5G deployments considerably and little progress can be made while Huawei lurks precariously next to the executioner’s block.

Unfortunately for those who were confident the UK might take a prominent position in the global digital economy, such distractions and uncertainty will come as a dampener. Other nations are flying towards the 5G dream, and potentially the economic boost which comes with the enablement of next-generation products, services and business models, though the UK can only sit and watch while this decision is dragged out.

The next Government will have the task of making the decision, though with Brexit still far from resolved, we’re not too sure when Tugendhat believes politicians are going to have a chance to discuss the Supply Chain Review and the fate of Huawei. January is likely to be the earliest point when a decision can be made, though it would surprise few is this state of unknowing drags on further into 2020.

Other countries have made a concrete decision on Huawei, Norway turned-down the prospect of a ban in recent weeks, though the pale imitation of political leadership in the UK is ruining any opportunity to build on a promising start for 5G. We would like to be optimistic and say two months is not that long to wait, though we are getting the feeling we will be saying the same thing in 2020.

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