With the cabinet expected to announce a decision on Huawei’s involvement in UK 5G this Tuesday, Sir Keir Starmer has accused Boris Johnson of “doing a runner” and avoiding the issue.
The decision of whether to involve Huawei in the UK’s 5G rollout has been rumbling on for months. On the one hand, US officials have claimed it could lead to compromised security and on the other hand, the UK government has argued that there are no viable alternative suppliers.
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Sir Keir Starmer has now told Sky News: “There are so many questions unanswered… He’s done a bit of a runner, has Boris Johnson. He’s not around and he’s not leading from the front. He needs to come to parliament, make a statement and face questions about this.”
The US’ Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has gone as far as claiming that the UK’s sovereignty would be at stake if Huawei was to be involved in the development of the 5G network. US officials have also warned that they may share less intelligence with the UK if Huawei is chosen to build the country’s 5G network.
Plenty disagree with Pompeo and the US’ repeated warnings though. Last week, we reported on the European Commission’s latest ruling on the issue. It decided not to recommend that Huawei be banned from being involved in any nation’s 5G rollout.
Others have been equally divided. While former Mi6 boss, Sir Richard Dearlove, warned against Huawei’s involvement, current British Intelligence representatives have played down any fears.
What does the decision mean for consumers?
On January 28, the Prime Minister will chair a meeting of The National Security Council, which should produce a decision on whether to involve Huawei in the UK’s 5G rollout.
Due to the government’s recent claim that few, or no, alternative providers could actually currently construct a 5G network, a decision ruling against the Chinese company could slow down the UK’s 5G rollout. This would mean consumers would have to wait longer for wide-ranging 5G access on phones, tablets and other devices.
The process of finding an alternative supplier, and allowing it to set up all the necessary infrastructure, would no doubt be a time consuming one.
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Nokia has been mentioned as a potential alternative supplier. Back in June Nokia’s chief technology officer, Marcus Weldon, warned UK officials about using Huawei 5G infrastructure, and added that Nokia was “a safer bet” for the UK. However, Nokia as a company was keen to distance itself from the executive’s claims.