(Reuters) – British security officials are not in favor of a complete ban on Huawei in national telecommunications networks, although the US claims are that the Chinese company and its products could be used by Beijing as a spy, people with knowledge of the matter said.
Huawei, the world's largest manufacturer of telecommunications equipment, faces an intense examination of its relations with the Chinese government and allegations of state espionage in the West. The United States demands that its allies not use their technology.
Although no evidence has been publicly presented and Huawei has denied the allegations, the allegations have led some Western countries to restrict their access to their markets.
"We do not endorse a complete ban. It's not that simple, "one source said to Reuters on Monday, after a Financial Times report on Sunday pointed out that Britain had decided to reduce the risks of using Huawei devices in 5G networks.
The FT cited two sources that were familiar with what they said, a conclusion from the government's National Cyber Security Council (NCSC), which said last year that technical problems and supply chain problems with Huawei devices are becoming national ones Telecommunications networks would have been exposed to new security risks.
While Huawei did not comment directly on the NCSC conclusion, rotating chairman Eric Xu said that the company had worked with various governments to set standards for measuring the safety of products.
"In this regard, Huawei has worked with various governments and industry partners to set agreed standards so that people can use those standards to measure how safe the products of all suppliers are," Xu said in an email with information from Reuters on Monday.
Any decision to allow Huawei to participate in next-generation 5G networks would be watched closely by other nations, as Britain is a member of the Five Eyes group for educational work in the United States.
Great Britain is an important market for Huawei. Vodafone, the world's second-largest mobile operator, said last month that it has "paused" the deployment of its devices in core networks until Western governments give the Chinese company full security clearance.
Other operators in Europe, including the British BT and French Orange, have already removed Huawei's equipment or taken steps to restrict future use.
Two sources said the NCSC did not think it necessary to completely block Huawei from UK networks. He believed that he could continue to control the risks by testing the products in a specialized laboratory supervised by intelligence services.
Both sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said the position was in line with the public statements made by the NCSC and British officials.
"As highlighted by the HCSEC Board of Supervisors in July, the NCSC has concerns over Huawei's technical and security capabilities. We've set the improvements we expect from the company, a NCSC spokeswoman said Monday.
Persons with knowledge of the matter said the next NCSC report on Huawei's position in the UK will criticize its slow response to the issues raised in last year's report and its close ties with British officials.
The report, which is expected to be published in the coming weeks, does not set any government policy.
The results of a government review of UK telecommunications infrastructure are expected later this year and include recommendations on how to handle security risks, including in future 5G networks.
The Australian Fellow Five Eyes member has banned Huawei from supplying 5G devices. New Zealand said Monday it would make its own independent assessment of the risk of using Huawei devices in 5G networks.
In the United Kingdom and Germany, Huawei has set up security laboratories that aim to build the confidence that its equipment will not contain "backdoors" for Chinese intelligence agencies.
In Poland, a cybersecurity center was built where authorities arrested a Chinese employee of Huawei along with a former Polish security guard.
Alex Younger, head of British intelligence MI6, said last week that it was more complicated than "in or out" when asked if Britain was trying to manage risks that were considered to be related to Huawei rather than simply banning it.
Jünger told journalists in Munich that it was not desirable that "a significant national infrastructure be provided by a monopoly provider."
Reporting by Jack Stubbs in London and Kanishka Singh in Bangalore; additional coverage by Guy Faulconbridge; Letter from Jack Stubbs and Georgina Prodhan; Arrangement by David Evans, Sandra Maler and Alexander Smith