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Could the UK revisit its 5G ban?

In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, the vice president of Huawei has said that the UK should revisit its decision to ban the Chinese telecom equipment maker from its 5G network, following the Presidential elections in the US and the defeat of Donald Trump.

According to Victor Zhang, the UK can’t afford to fall behind in the 5G revolution at a time when the UK is looking at a post-Covid recovery and coming to terms with the consequences of Brexit.

In July the UK government announced that Huawei equipment would need to be stripped out of the country’s 5G networks by 2027. Ministers said that the decision was not caused by any security threat posed by Huawei, but rather by the Trump administration’s decision to block US semiconductors being used by Huawei.

According to Zhang, “The decision is going to have a huge economic impact on the UK. The government itself has said it will lead to a three-year delay in the rollout of 5G, and this will have a huge economic impact. Many people are surprised by the scale of the impact of this delay. Third-party research by Assembly, an independent research firm, shows this delay will have an £18.2bn impact.”

That same research suggests that if 5G were delivered nationwide without delay, three-quarters of its expected economic benefit would come in regions outside London and the south-east and would have a significant role in delivering the government’s aim of levelling up the UK economy.

Zhang said that he thought the decision to ban Huawei was part of a much broader confrontation between the US and China. “The decision was a political one motivated by US perceptions of Huawei and not those of the UK. This is not really motivated by security, but about a trade war between the US and China.”

The big question is will a new US administration adopt a different approach to Donald Trump and could that see the UK changing its mind, yet again?

Neil Tyler

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