Huawei remains confident about its UK future as it opens innovation centre

Huawei remains confident about its UK future as it opens innovation centre
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Huawei remains confident about its future in the UK as the Chinese vendor opens a new 5G innovation centre in London.

The vendor describes its new facility as a “base for knowledge and skills sharing” and intends to promote collaboration between innovators and businesses in 5G. Visitors can experience 5G applications, such as VR and AR, as well as test out brand new innovations.

“With the opening of our 5G Innovation and Experience Centre in London we, as a leader of 5G, are taking another important step,” said Victor Zhang, Vice President of Huawei UK. 

“What we have opened today will enable true collaboration amongst UK businesses and technologists and showcase the huge potential of 5G applications for both the private and business sectors.”

However, Huawei has been facing a string of US-led allegations that it poses a national security threat.

The UK and the US are each other's biggest single investors and the "special relationship" is set to become closer post-Brexit. Both countries are also part of the "Five Eyes" intelligence-sharing relationship alongside Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

While the US has been increasing pressure on all of its allies to ban Huawei's equipment, it is particularly concerned about those it has such a deep security relationship with. US officials have even threatened to cut off, or substantially reduce, intelligence-sharing with allies that continue to use Chinese telecoms equipment.

The UK government says it will make its decision based on its own evidence-led review but that it appreciates input from its allies. Current indications suggest Huawei's equipment will be allowed in "non core" parts of 5G networks.

Speaking to Sky News, Zhang said: "Huawei have been here in the UK for more than 18 years and trust has been built with our customers and with the UK government through our openness and transparency."

All of Huawei's equipment is checked before use at the dedicated Huawei Cybersecurity Evaluation Centre (HCSEC) in Banbury, which was first established in 2012. An annual report is produced which highlights the centre's findings. 

HCSEC consistently reported it was able to offer assurance that risks posed by the use of Huawei's equipment could be mitigated, until last year.

"Identification of shortcomings in Huawei's engineering processes have exposed new risks in the UK telecommunication networks and long-term challenges in mitigation and management," officials said in the report.

Concerns were raised about technical issues limiting security researchers' ability to check internal product code and the sourcing of components from outside suppliers which are used in Huawei's products.

Huawei welcomed the report and said it proved that HCSEC was working. The company said it was committed to addressing the issues highlighted.

However, a follow up report from HCSEC in March slammed Huawei as being slow to address concerns and claimed that “no material progress has been made by Huawei in the remediation of the issues reported last year, making it inappropriate to change the level of assurance from last year or to make any comment on potential future levels of assurance.”

Even more concerning is that HCSEC’s report highlighted that further significant technical issues have been identified which pose new risks to UK telecoms networks.

“HCSEC's work has continued to identify concerning issues in Huawei’s approach to software development bringing significantly increased risk to UK operators which requires ongoing management and mitigation,” the report stated.

In February, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) – the world's oldest independent think tank on international defence and security – warned that allowing Huawei to participate in 5G would be "naive" and "irresponsible".

“It is far easier to place a hidden backdoor inside a system than it is to find one," the RUSI wrote in their report. "In the likely, but unacknowledged, battle between Chinese cyber attackers and the UK’s Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre, the advantage and overwhelming resources lie with the former."

At the NATO Summit in London earlier this month, President Trump reiterated his stance that involving Huawei in 5G would pose "a security danger".

With the UK's general election campaign now over, and the incumbent party winning a large majority, it may not be much longer before a final decision is reached on Huawei.

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data ExpoCyber Security & Cloud Expo and 5G Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam and explore the future of enterprise technology.

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