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UK security officials tell telcos to stock up on Huawei gear – report

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has reportedly written to UK telecoms operators suggesting stockpiles of Huawei equipment are developed in response to US sanctions.

The letter, seen by Reuters, would appear to be one of the more obvious indications US sanctions intended to disrupt the Huawei supply chain are working. The NCSC has suggested the telecoms operators stockpile critical equipment to ensure resiliency of telecoms infrastructure as political tensions continue to escalate and threaten to undermine the global telecoms ecosystem.

“Ensuring that products and components are kept up-to-date is essential to maintaining the security of networks,” the letter states. “Escalating US action against Huawei may affect its ability to provide updates for products containing US technology.”

Although it is not entirely clear who the letter was addressed to, there are plenty of companies who are exposed to such a threat. BT, Vodafone and Three all have comprehensive supply agreements with Huawei, while the Chinese vendor is also the main supplier for Openreach, the company which powers the majority of the UK broadband services.

The on-going assault from the White House directed towards Huawei has been one of the long-standing trends in the telecoms space for the last 12-18 months, and although the US Government has seemingly had minimal impact on the vendors fortunes (as you can see from the table below), this latest move does seem to have raised concerns.

Huawei financial performance, 2010-19, billion – Chinese Yuan
Year Revenue Year-on-year Growth
2010 185.2
2011 203.9 10.1%
2012 220.2 8.0%
2013 239.0 8.5%
2014 288.2 20.6%
2015 395.0 37.1%
2016 521.6 32.1%
2017 603.6 15.7%
2018 721.2 19.5%
2019 858.8 19.1%

Source: Huawei Annual Report – 2010-19

To date, the US Government has taken several different approaches in an attempt to inhibit Huawei’s business. It suggested that Government’s should ban the firm, before threatening allied nations with intelligence data embargos when the friendly approach was ignored. President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order after Congress banned any US telco from working with Huawei, but it was the assault on the semiconductor supply chain which seems to have been the straw which broke the camel’s back.

The most recent move, which banned any company, irrelevant of domicile, from using US technology or IP to work with Huawei was a blow to the semiconductor supply chain. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company recently said it would not take any more orders from the firm, leaving Huawei unable to manufacture many components. This could cause potential delays to the launch of new smartphone devices, though it seems the risk has also been based onto base stations and other network infrastructure equipment.

This letter could be evidence the US has found a weak spot. This is not a knockout blow, but Huawei has Bambi Legs, and the NCSC seems to be nervous.

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One comment

  1. Avatar Anthony 22/06/2020 @ 3:35 pm

    It might be a good idea to stock-up with this gear before the UK requires it to be removed from the network… 😉

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