Huawei, 5G and the UK: The key issues

A decision on Huawei's future in the UK is expected to be released on Tuesday by Culture Minister Oliver Dowden.

Mr Dowden said last week that US sanctions against Huawei would likely have a "significant impact" on the company's ability to play a role in the UK's 5G network.

Here's a look at the key issues in the Huawei debate.

– What is Huawei?

Huawei smartphones are commonplace in the UK
Huawei smartphones are widely used in the UK (Martyn Landi / PA)

Huawei is the Chinese telecommunications giant that describes itself as a private company that is “fully owned by its employees”.

In recent years, the range of smartphones has prevailed across the UK and is now one of the largest smartphone manufacturers in the world alongside Apple and Samsung.

In addition to manufacturing mobile devices, the company also manufactures telecommunications networks.

– Why is the company controversial?

Huawei has been criticized for its alleged close relationship with the Chinese state.

The country has a history of state censorship and surveillance, such as the "Great Firewall of China", which blocks several Internet services in the country, and under Chinese law, companies can be forced to "support, cooperate with, and work with at the national level" "intelligence work" .

As a result, critics of Huawei have raised concerns that Beijing may require the company to install technological "back doors" so that it can spy on or disrupt the UK communications network.

The United States is a strong critic of the company, and last year President Donald Trump included Huawei on the entity list, effectively blacklisting the company and preventing trade with U.S. companies.

US President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump (Niall Carson / PA)

As a result, Huawei has been unable to use the main Google apps on its latest smartphones as part of the Android operating system with which the devices are operated.

However, the company has always rejected any suggestions of close ties with the Chinese state or has ever been asked by the Chinese authorities to spy on others and insisted that it fully comply with the laws of every country in which it operates.

– How is it connected to 5G?

A cell phone next to a telecommunications mast
5G launched in areas of the UK last year (Ben Birchall / PA)

In addition to the smartphone business, Huawei is one of the market leaders in telecommunications infrastructure devices, including that for 5G.

5G, the next generation of mobile data communications, has been launched in areas of the UK a year ago.

The new networks enable the simultaneous transmission of larger amounts of data, which could one day introduce new technologies such as autonomous vehicle networks and remote operations in which specialists cannot physically reach a hospital.

As a result, there is a lot of discussion among telecommunications companies and governments about how to secure such a data-sensitive network, which has led to Huawei's review.

– What is the UK's position?

Earlier this year, the government confirmed that Huawei would play a limited role in the launch of the UK's 5G network.

The company has been classified as a "high risk provider", which means that it cannot be used in critical parts of the network such as military bases and nuclear facilities, and its presence should be limited to 35% of the network's periphery.

The decision was angered by critics in both the UK and the US. The latter warned of withdrawing intelligence cooperation from countries that allow Huawei to be part of telecommunications networks.

Country officials and politicians have repeatedly asked the UK to reconsider the decision. Republican Senator Tom Cotton from Arkansas told Defense Select Committee MPs that he feared China would try to use a high-tech wedge with Huawei to jeopardize the "special relationship" decision between Britain and the United States.

Cabinet Minister Michael Gove said a decision about Huawei would be made by the National Security Council (NSC) and announced to parliament.

Earlier this month, executives from Vodafone and BT told the Science and Technology Select Committee that it would take at least five years to completely remove the Chinese company's devices without causing interference that could cause signal loss for several days.

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