Between a rock and a hard place: who will the UK side with in the 5G battle?

5G is rolling out across the globe in order to improve our internet speeds and advance technology in areas such as IoT, driverless cars and VR streaming. However, 5G isn’t as simple as just building the infrastructure and switching it on; it has become a political issue with international relations at stake. As briefly mentioned in the previous blog, there have been security concerns regarding the implementation of 5G. Specifically, some are concerned that the involvement of China based mobile service company, Huawei, in developing 5G infrastructure, puts countries at risk of being spied on by the Chinese government.


The UK have yet to decide whether it will allow Huawei to rollout 5G mobile networks in the UK as the verdict could have negative implications either way. Huawei believes they can play an integral part in helping to continue the development of UK broadband; allowing 5G to developed across the nation in a secure, affordable and timely manner. However, our close allies in USA are not convinced. The US and President Donald Trump have banned many companies from associating with Huawei and their products, and have no plans to use them in 5G development. In addition, they have also put pressure on their allies, including the UK, to exclude Huawei in developing 5G technology, citing concerns for national security.


If the UK go ahead with allowing Huawei to roll out 5G networks, they could be at risk at harming their relationship with their closest ally as well as the potential to jeopardise the US and UK intelligence sharing relationship. However, if UK decide to take on board the fears of the USA and do not go ahead with implementing the Chinese technology there are concerns that this could send a bad message to China, with Chinese officials warning that excluding Huawei from the UK 5G network “sends a very bad signal, not only on trade but on investment”.


In recent news, head of MI5 says he is confident that despite UKs decision on this matter, the US and UK intelligence sharing relationship will not be jeopardised. The decision over the involvement of Huawei with UK 5G development was meant to have taken place in the latter half of 2019 but has been postponed yet again, with news expected to be released in a few weeks’ time.


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