UK asks telecom providers to stockpile Huawei gear

Huawei building. Photo: Getty

UK officials have written to the country’s mobile operators, asking them to ensure they have plenty of Huawei equipment as they fear US sanctions could disrupt the Chinese company’s ability to maintain supplies, according to a letter seen by Reuters.

Last month the Prime Minister’s official spokesman revealed that the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) had launched a review looking at the impact US sanctions against Huawei could have on the UK’s networks.

In a letter, the NCSC has now said: “Escalating US action against Huawei may affect its ability to provide updates for products containing US technology.” 

READ MORE: US attacks 'fealty' of HSBC as it urges UK to ditch Huawei

The letter also said: “Ensuring that products and components are kept up-to-date is essential to maintaining the security of networks”.

An NCSC spokeswoman told Reuters it “has provided operators with a series of precautionary steps we recommend they take while we carefully consider the impact these sanctions have on the UK’s networks.”

Huawei Vice President Victor Zhang said: “Our customers are our number one priority and we are working with them to ensure business continuity. We strongly oppose politically-motivated actions by the US that are designed to damage our business and are not based on evidence,” according to Reuters.

UK’s top telecom operators BT (BT-A.L) and Vodafone (VOD) declined to comment, Reuters said.

The UK government agreed in January to allow Huawei’s equipment to play a limited role in the 5G network, but has since launched another review. 

Huawei has repeatedly denied allegations that its equipment could be used to spy on people and governments in the West.

Last month, it said it is committed to bringing better internet connections to all parts of the UK.

In an open letter, the Chinese firm said it was “committed as ever” to building internet networks “quickly, affordably and securely”. 

Concerns have been previously raised over the company’s role in the UK’s 5G network because of fears over close ties to the Chinese state.

Critics – in particular, the US – have claimed Huawei’s equipment could be used to spy on people and governments in the West.

In January, after a government review, it was announced Huawei would be allowed to have a reduced role in Britain’s 5G infrastructure, but the company was classed as a “high-risk vendor”, locked out of sensitive parts of the network and told it would be limited to no more than 35% of non-core areas of the network.

READ MORE: Huawei launches open letter to UK amid new review into 5G role