It has been a rough couple of years for Huawei. While their smartphone sales have continued to grow globally, their ban in the US was a big blow for the 5G ambitions. Since their decision, the US leadership has been pressuring other countries to do the same, to no avail. That may have changed with the UK reportedly planning to phase out Huawei 5G infrastructure by the year 2023.
Officials from the United Kingdom speaking to the Financial Times, have said that their government is planning on gradually phasing out the Huawei hardware equipment over the next three years. This backtracks on a previous decision that they would work with the Chinese telecommunications giant to build world-class infrastructure.
It may have something to do with the new leadership in the UK, with Boris Johnson always having had “serious concerns” about Huawei’s foothold, according to The Telegraph. The coronavirus pandemic may have exacerbated his concerns, with Chinese surveillance always being top of mind. This comes after Beijing stepped up its surveillance capabilities in China to fight the spread of the virus, but Huawei has always maintained that they remain independent from the Communist Party.
The UK chose to work with Huawei because they needed the “best possible technologies, more choice, innovation and more suppliers,” says Huawei’s Victor Zhang. He adds that the Financial Times reports “simply don’t make sense” and hopes they can still work with the UK going forward.
This decision could prove extremely costly for the UK government and the telecoms companies that have gone into these 5G agreements with Huawei. Not honouring the agreements could cost vastly more than what they were planning on paying to install the infrastructure around the country. For example, BT’s estimated cost of the planned Huawei infrastructure will cost more than $600 million.
It is thought that Huawei’s technology is among the best in the world for 5G integration. The fact that global politics is seeping into technological advancement isn’t surprising (as the US wishes to win the 5G arms race, but don’t have the technology ready), but we hope it isn’t us, the consumers, who end up losing out.