Experts say the Huawei ban will not put the UK ‘into the digital slow lane’

Ryan is an editor at TechForge Media with over a decade of experience covering the latest technology and interviewing leading industry figures. He can often be sighted at tech conferences with a strong coffee in one hand and a laptop in the other. If it's geeky, he’s probably into it. Find him on Twitter: @Gadget_Ry

A poll of experts suggests the Huawei ban will not put the UK “into the digital slow lane,” as the company has warned.

The polling was conducted by The Chartered Institute for IT and gathered the opinions of 3,000 professionals.

More than half of the experts surveyed said they do not believe Huawei’s claims that its ban will harm the country’s digital prospects and push up bills. Around 20 percent weren’t sure.

In contrast, the majority of those surveyed believe the removal of Huawei’s equipment from national mobile and broadband networks will improve the UK’s security.

“Huawei’s claim that the UK will somehow be thrown into a dark age without them looks like hubris, according to most IT professionals,” said Dr Bill Mitchell OBE, Director of Policy at BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT.

“While our survey results show broad support for the government’s decision, most experts also feel that no 5G infrastructure can be guaranteed as totally trustworthy.”

“The UK’s focus must be on accelerating the digitisation of the economy, including promoting Digital Apprenticeships and T-Levels, investing in digital first public services, and dealing with the digital divide, if we are to boost social and economic renewal after COVID-19 and Brexit.”

A difficult year for Huawei

To say Huawei has had a difficult year so far is an understatement.

Huawei’s year started off quite well with the UK deciding in January after a multi-year security review to permit the Chinese vendor’s equipment, albeit with some restrictions.

The UK government received significant backlash for its decision, including from allies, MPs on both sides of the Commons, and even human rights groups.

“Huawei is not a sort of ordinary international telecommunications company, it’s an intimate part of the Chinese state,” former MI6 head Sir Richard Dearlove told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge in July. “And if you know anything about Chinese military strategy, they talk about the fusion of civil and military capabilities.”

Pressure further increased on London to ban Huawei following a deterioration in relations with Beijing over matters such as Hong Kong, the coronavirus outbreak, alleged state-sponsored cyberattacks, and the detention of Uighur Muslims in barbaric “re-education” camps.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said last month that France will continue welcoming investment from Chinese companies but called Beijing’s abuses against the Uighur Muslims “revolting and unacceptable”.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the United States would be imposing visa restrictions on Chinese firms such as Huawei that he accused of facilitating human-rights violations. Huawei has been barred from accessing American hardware and software, forcing Google to end its smartphone relationship with the company.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered Huawei’s equipment to be removed from the UK’s 5G networks by 2027. Telecoms companies will be banned from purchasing Huawei equipment from December 31st, 2020.

The UK has since launched consultations with its close allies – particularly those within the Five Eyes security relationship, but also other “D10” democratic countries – to fund and procure alternatives to Huawei’s equipment.

Most of the respondents to The Chartered Institute for IT’s survey believe that the 2027 deadline for the removal of Huawei’s equipment in the UK is feasible.

You can find a full copy of The Chartered Institute for IT’s survey here (PDF)

(Photo by Florian Steciuk on Unsplash)

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