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Britain bans Huawei from involvement in 'sensitive parts' of 5G network

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Europe is the largest market outside China for Huawei
Europe is the largest market outside China for Huawei   -  
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(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File) - Mark Schiefelbein
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Britain says it will exclude China's Huawei from 'sensitive parts' of its next-generation wireless networks, including 5G.

Huawei has come under scrutiny because of worries that communist leaders in Beijing could, under China's 2017 national intelligence law, compel the company to carry out cyber espionage.

President Donald Trump and his officials say Huawei can’t be trusted because it is beholden to the Chinese government, and has threatened to cut intelligence cooperation with Britain if it gives the Chinese firm access.

The UK government announced on Tuesday it would stop Huawei from having access to sensitive parts of the network. It said it would also introduce a 35% cap — for so-called high-risk vendors — for access to non-sensitive parts of the network.

RELATED: Will 2020 be the year of 5G technology?

Europe and Huawei

Across Europe — Huawei's biggest market outside China — no government has yet imposed an outright ban on the firm, and attitudes vary.

The European Commission is set to release non-binding guidelines for 5G on Wednesday.

In Germany, politicians are challenging Chancellor Angela Merkel’s position that access for Huawei is not a problem as long as the level of access remains consistent across the continent.

Orange does not use Huawei technology in France, where it is the domestic market leader, but it does rely on Huawei in Spain and Poland.

In Britain's Huawei's supporters say the firm brings expertise and that security issues can be managed. The company denies it would give data access to the Chinese government.

Why does the timing of the Huawei deal matter?

Days away from leaving the European Union and desperately needing to secure its future outside of the trading bloc, Britain is now caught in the middle of a geopolitical battle between the US and China.

Boris Johnson's government finds itself in the awkward position of risking the fury of its closest ally at just the moment it really needs Trump's administration to quickly strike a trade deal. Post-Brexit Britain must also curry favour with China.

What could happen with Britain and Huawei?

Johnson hinted on Monday that he wants to thread a middle route.

“The way forward for us clearly is to have a system that delivers for people in this country the kind of consumer benefits that they want through 5G technology or whatever, but does not in any way compromise our critical national infrastructure, our security or jeopardise our ability to work together with other intelligence powers around the world,” he said.

“We are going to come up with a solution that enables us to achieve both those objectives and that's the way forward."

What is 5G?

5G — the fifth generation of cellular networks — is not merely an upgrade from existing 4G wireless network technology, but is billed as a radical transformation delivering ultrafast download speeds.

5G will be built into thousands of new devices, such as thermostats and sensors in medical devices. The aim is for 5G to be instrumental for self-driving cars or for telemedicine, allowing doctors to control robots in remote surgery on patients thousands of miles away. Underpinning all this new connectivity will be a lot more software that can lead to more vulnerabilities.

Banning Huawei puts Britain at risk of falling behind economically, they say. Complicating matters, some British wireless carriers have already started installing Huawei 5G gear and don't want to spend more money ripping it out.

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