Last week, Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the UK House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, reportedly warned of the Conservative Party’s hardened stance towards Huawei amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter seen by the US news website Axios, a group of tech firms has urged the UK to find alternatives to the use of Huawei components in developing Britain’s 5G network.
“In short, the UK now has the opportunity to put in place the most technologically advanced 5G infrastructure without needing to rely at all on ‘high-risk vendors’”, the letter addressed to House of Commons Defence Committee chair Tobias Ellwood reads, in an apparent reference to the Chinese tech giant.
The letter was signed by nine tech companies, including Taiwan’s Microelectronics Technology, Japan’s NEC and GigaTera Communications, as well as US-based Airspan, Mavenir, Parallel Wireless, Super Micro Computer, Altiostar, and World Wide Technology.
The firms are members of the so-called O-RAN alliance which is an alternative to “traditional radio access network gear using standard servers and open source software”, according to Axios.
Their letter comes a few days after the South China Morning Post cited Tom Tugendhat, the Conservative chairman of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, as saying that the negative attitude of many rank-and-file Tory officials towards Huawei had worsened during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I think the mood in the parliamentary party has hardened. And I think it’s a shared realisation of what it means for dependence on a business that is part of a state that does not share our values. That has become clearer”, he pointed out.
The letter followed Huawei UK chief Victor Zhang signaling the Chinese tech giant’s readiness to help Britain connect to the 5G network amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
He also slammed those who “choose to continue to attack us without presenting any evidence”, warning that disrupting Huawei’s “involvement in the 5G rollout would do Britain a disservice”.
The letter was preceded by the UK House of Commons voting in March to reject amendments to the country’s Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill, proposed by rebel Conservative members of parliament, which would have prevented Huawei from participating in the creation of Britain’s 5G infrastructure.
London Okays Huawei’s Limited Access to UK 5G Infrastructure
In late February, London announced that it would give the Chinese tech behemoth a limited role in building the UK’s 5G network, despite previous warnings from Washington that the move could potentially compromise Britain’s security and hamper intelligence-sharing between the US and the UK.
At the same time, London stressed that Huawei would be excluded from the 5G network’s “core” parts, such as safety-related areas.
The decision came amid the US crackdown on the Chinese firm which kicked off in 2019, when Washington blacklisted Huawei, accusing the company of cooperating with China’s intelligence services, allegations that the firm vehemently rejects.
Despite US pressure, Huawei touted “solid business performance” in its 2019 Annual Report, with sales topping $123 billion and net profits reaching $9 billion.