The U.K. government postponed making a decision about Huawei Technologies Co.’s involvement in the country’s fifth-generation mobile networks, citing a lack of clarity over the impact of a U.S. export ban affecting the Chinese company.
Jeremy Wright, who oversees the department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said the government won’t be in a position to make specific decisions regarding Huawei until the implications of the U.S. move on the availability and reliability of the company’s products are clear.
“Until it is, we have concluded it would be wrong to make specific decisions in relation to Huawei,” Wright said in statement to the House of Commons on Monday. “We will do so as soon as possible.”
Wright’s comments came alongside the release of a telecom supply-chain review started last November that was expected to include the country’s position on Huawei, which will now fall to the next prime minister. The ruling Conservative Party is due to announce the winner of its leadership contest between Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt on Tuesday.
Pressure has been building on the government from U.K. and U.S. politicians, as well as network operators, to make up its mind on Huawei. In the past week, two parliamentary committees have urged Prime Minister Theresa May’s administration to publish its decision.
The U.K. Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee said in a report issued Friday that banning Huawei could make U.K. networks less secure by reducing the number of available suppliers. Huawei is one of three potential 5G suppliers to the U.K., alongside Nokia Oyj and Ericsson AB.
Meanwhile, all four U.K. carriers are building their 5G networks using equipment from Huawei. BT Group Plc’s EE and Vodafone Group Plc have already gone live with 5G.
Huawei Vice President Victor Zhang said in a statement Monday evening that the government review “gives us confidence that we can continue to work with network operators to roll out 5G across the U.K.”
Based on discussions with three of the U.K.’s four carriers, analyst firm Assembly estimated in April that restrictions on the use of Huawei could delay the 5G roll-out by between 18 and 24 months, resulting in a 4.5 billion pounds ($5.6 billion) to 6.8 billion pound hit to the U.K. economy.
The U.K. proposed to strengthen the security of the country’s telecom supply-chain by requiring carriers to design and manage networks to meet new standards and subject operators to “rigorous oversight” as part of procurement and contract management processes telecom supply-chain review, according to a statement.
Operators will have to assess the risks posed by vendors to network security and resilience and ensure those risks are managed appropriately under new framework. The review identified a lack of diversity in the supply chain and recommended regulations enforcing cybersecurity be strengthened.
The government pledged to develop legislation to provide communications regulator Ofcom with stronger powers.