June 9, 2020

Britain and Huawei square off over 5G

The UK’s deal with Huawei is looking shaky.

Photo by Xavi Torrent/Getty Images

British media right now is teeming with ads from Chinese telecom giant Huawei — and it’s a good reminder that the battle over 5G is far from finished. 

The brief rundown: Huawei is ahead in the 5G race. While the US has urged its allies not to partner with the company because of security concerns, it hasn’t proposed a real alternative.

Britain is in an especially tight spot. Back in January, the country agreed to let Huawei build up to 35% of its 5G market share in “non-core areas.” But following US sanctions in May, Britain launched a review that could see it back out.

Ghosting Huawei has its consequences

Over the weekend, the British bank HSBC warned that messing with Huawei would hurt business in China. China’s ambassador to the UK characterized Huawei as “a litmus test of whether Britain is a true and faithful partner.”

But with the COVID-19 crisis making some countries rethink their reliance on China, Huawei skeptics might be getting a rare win. 

Denmark said it wants its 5G system to come from a national ally. And the UK is proposing an alliance of 10 major countries — the US, France, Japan, and India among them — to build a 5G system that competes against Huawei’s.

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