According to reports, Prime Minister Theresa May will allow Huawei to supply antennas and other “non-core” infrastructure to UK 5G networks but not the core of telecom, which might lead to a flurry of confusing speculation. We can take a look at some of the more perplexing aspects.
The United States and its allies are not “divided” on Huawei due to this decision. Using Huawei equipment is perilous, according to all significant allies. It is over how to handle that risk that there is a dispute. The UK aims to strike a middle ground between a complete ban and handing over management of crucial networks to Huawei and China. Many European countries currently utilize Huawei for their 4G networks, and just overlaying 5G onto this existing infrastructure is significantly cheaper and faster.
The UK has suggested that they can control the risk posed by Huawei by prohibiting the use of Huawei equipment near sensitive locations (such as defense installations or Whitehall), limiting its usage in other places to the 5G network’s “edge,” and keeping it out of the “core.” The Chinese government’s risk of 5G service disruption or intelligence collection is reduced but not eliminated. Other European countries are exploring this idea as well because it avoids enraging China’s government. It will retaliate if a comprehensive ban is implemented (as it did with Australia’s ban, and China’s coercive behavior is one of the reasons why people do not want to be reliant on Huawei).
Wireless networks are divided into two parts: the edge, where the handset connects to a wireless base station via radio signals, and the core, where the base station connects (often via fiber optic cable) to powerful routers and other computer equipment that handle millions of messages per minute to allow the call to connect to other cellular networks. The core is the best site for intelligence advantage, which is one of the reasons Huawei is “desperate” to get inside it, according to one European telecom executive. This UK’s decision has been thwarted this Chinese ambition.
Many governments will be enticed by Huawei’s promise of substantial reductions in exchange for access to the core. Huawei has offered Italy a discount of more than 80% off the market price for using its equipment. Huawei can do so because the Chinese government sponsors it for two reasons. The first is to acquire an intelligence advantage by controlling the core of a telecommunications network. The second strategy is to use predatory pricing to encourage competitors to enter the market. One of the most significant shortcomings of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is its failure to address predatory pricing.
The Chinese government supports Huawei’s desire for a monopoly because it will provide them with a global signal’s intelligence network. China does not lavish large subsidies on Italy because it admires its cuisine. However, one aspect of the debate that is sometimes overlooked is that telecom operators—phone companies—do not want Huawei to have a monopoly. Even Chinese telecommunications businesses want to stay away from Huawei due to a security risk but rather a realistic fear that Huawei may abuse its monopoly power to demand outrageous rates. The competitors are pushed to compete and innovate. The commercial aircraft industry has two competitors so that customers can play them off against each other; there will need to be more than one telecom supplier, and that other supplier cannot be Chinese.
The question is whether a partial ban on Huawei will work to lessen the risk by keeping it out of sensitive areas and the telecom core. “Not proven” is the only answer. As 5G enables many more things than a phone—self-driving vehicles, telemedicine, smart cities, and the like—both core and edge functions will become essential. Allowing Huawei in, even at the edge, could offer China more possibilities for mischief.
Many European cities certainly breathed a sigh of relief when the UK decision was announced because the UK approach allows them to avoid irritating China without ultimately compromising on security. This is neither a total success for Huawei (whose reputation may be irreversibly harmed) nor a defeat for the US. It is just the beginning of the long process of dealing with China as a strategic rival.
According to a top detective, Beijing could have taken down Canberra’s 5G network and brought the country to its knees even before their diplomatic ties deteriorated.
According to the Sunday Morning Herald, the Australian Signals Directorate disbursed more than eight months trying to discover a method to mark the Chinese enterprise’s telecommunications apparatus harmless but eventually advised the Turnbull administration that the risk is difficult to be handled satisfactorily.
The Sunday Morning Herald reports that “In 2018, Australia was the leading country to prohibit Huawei from its 5G network, and since then, many more countries have followed suit. The Chinese administration of President Xi Jinping continues to press Canberra to overturn the rejection. It ranks second on a list of fourteen requirements issued by the Chinese embassy in Canberra in November as a condition for repairing relations. China’s foreign investment should be unlimited, according to the first item on the stack.”
According to an experienced Australian detective, the biggest threat is not Chinese snooping but Beijing ordering Huawei to turn off Australia’s 5G network entirely. “Here is what most pundits, counting some of the American groups, get wrong about 5G,” the detective stated this journalist for the new book Red Zone, which was included in Saturday’s Good Weekend magazine. “It is not about listening in on people’s conversations. We have the same issue with 4G as we did with 3G “The Sunday Morning Herald commented on this.
According to the official, the underlying issue is that Beijing might order Huawei or ZTE, another big Chinese telecom equipment maker, to “turn things off,” causing the country – or parts of it – to be disrupted.
“The sewage pump breaks down. People do not have access to clean water. They can foresee the ramifications on society. Alternatively, the public transportation system may be unavailable. Alternatively, self-driving electric cars are not working. And this has ramifications for society as well as the economy.”
For above causes, he stated, the 5G network would be “No. 1 on the acute structure list” in requirement of safety that once fully operational.
Huawei has always said that if China’s authorities demanded it, it would never comply. Malcolm Turnbull, the prime minister who decided in 2018, did not believe the company: In an interview with the book, he remarked, “One thing you know – if the Chinese Communist Party called on Huawei to act against Australia’s interests, Huawei would have to do it.” “‘Oh no, we would refuse,’ Huawei responds. That is ridiculous. They would be left with no choice but to cooperate.”
Beijing passed a rule in 2017 requiring all businesses, whether private and public, to work with the Chinese government on any national security issue.
“I went back and forth with Mike Burgess [then head of the ASD and now ASIO’s director-general of security], pressing him to find an effective way of minimizing the danger,” Turnbull said before banning Huawei.
“I would love to have all suppliers available in Australia, but not at the expense of security,” says the author.
Burgess put together a Red Team of the ASD’s top hackers to play the role of Beijing. They were instructed to utilize Huawei as a weapon against Australia.
According to the Sunday Morning Herald, the flaws they highlighted served as the foundation for the ASD’s protection mechanisms.
On A3 sheets of paper, Burgess and his team presented Turnbull with the entire list of more than 300 metrics. They stipulated that Australia should have complete and exclusive access to the source code, and complete and exclusive access to the hardware schematics and that all upgrades should be performed in Australia.
Even still, ASD said, the potential of a shutdown could not be eliminated.
India said in early May that mobile operators would be able to conduct 5G experiments using Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung, and C-DOT technology. Huawei and other Chinese equipment manufacturers were not mentioned in the announcement. They have not been overtly barred from supplying equipment. However, press reports following the May notice suggest that new procurement regulations will officially prohibit mobile carriers from utilizing Chinese equipment by June.
Around the world, the deployment of 5G, the next generation of wireless technology, has become a top priority. Of course, India does not want to be left behind in the race to create an infrastructure that, according to government estimates, could have a global economic impact of more than $1 trillion by 2035. By enabling ambitious infrastructure and e-governance initiatives, 5G-enabled technology could also help India overcome old development constraints.
However, the question of who should furnish the equipment has long existed. Moreover, India has maintained visual ambiguity since the outset of the debate—specifically, whether to enable Chinese IT companies to construct these networks against US intentions.
Indian Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad declared in December 2019 that anyone, including Huawei, might participate in India’s 5G testing. Huawei and ZTE submitted participation requests to the country’s Telecommunications Department. Huawei reportedly offered to sign a “no backdoor” deal with the Indian government, giving New Delhi the authority to prohibit Huawei from operating in the nation if serious proof of a security violation emerged.
On the other hand, New Delhi set up two committees to look into the Huawei situation further. India’s chief scientific advisor called the first, and the second comprised of officials from the country’s Home Affairs Ministry and Intelligence Bureau. Even the composition of these panels reflects a shift in the Indian government’s attitude toward 5G. The first group, for example, included representatives from India’s Science and Technology and External Affairs ministries, whereas the second committee focused more on security concerns.
Given the likelihood that network equipment could be used to eavesdrop, security has undoubtedly become one of the most critical concerns in selecting 5G equipment suppliers. The US and Australia are particularly concerned about Huawei’s risks, citing its opaque ownership structure, close ties to the Chinese Communist Party. Provisions of China’s espionage and intelligence laws requiring organizations and citizens to “support, assist, and cooperate with state intelligence work.”
Unease about Huawei in particular tied into broader geopolitical and strategic concerns about the United States and China’s protracted technology cold war. Both countries have sought to persuade third parties to either choose Huawei and jeopardize connections with the US or ban Huawei and face retaliation from China through policies, comments, and actions.
As a result, the global internet and technology may be splintered into two independent domains of influence. Experts believe that a “digital iron curtain” would fall across global technology and governance as some countries choose the US while others, notably low- and middle-income countries, choose more cost-effective Chinese solutions.