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Britain to allow Huawei restricted access to 5G network

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Britain will allow Huawei Technologies a restricted role in building parts of its 5G network, seeking a middle way in a bitter dispute between the United States and China over the next generation of communications technology.

[GLASGOW] Britain will allow Huawei Technologies a restricted role in building parts of its 5G network, seeking a middle way in a bitter dispute between the United States and China over the next generation of communications technology.

Huawei, the world's biggest producer of telecoms equipment, is under intense scrutiny after the United States told allies not to use its technology because of fears it could be a vehicle for Chinese spying. Huawei has categorically denied this.

Britain's National Security Council, chaired by Prime Minister Theresa May, met to discuss Huawei on Tuesday.

A security source told Reuters that Britain would block Huawei from all core parts of the 5G network and access to non-core parts would be restricted. A second source confirmed that. Both spoke on condition of anonymity.

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"It's essential that we get the balance right, ensuring that our networks are built in a way that is secure against interference from whatever source, but also are competitive," said Britain's finance minister, Philip Hammond.

"Where our security experts tell us that there are ways in which we can maintain security - whether it's in networks or installations - that avoid the most economically costly outcomes, then we should look very carefully at those options."

The Daily Telegraph newspaper first reported the Huawei decision.

5G, which will offer much faster data speeds and become the foundation stone of many industries and networks, is seen as one of the biggest innovations since the birth of the internet itself a generation ago.

In what some have compared to the Cold War arms race, the United States is worried 5G dominance would give a competitor such as China an advantage Washington is not ready to accept.

European nations are treading a fine line in the dispute between the world's two most powerful countries, under pressure from the United States to take a hard line on Huawei but also anxious not to sour trading and diplomatic relations with China.

Huawei welcomed London's move, though ministers cautioned that a final decision may not have been made.

Britain's compromise could provide a template for other Western nations to follow as they try to navigate the row between Beijing and Washington.

The world's leading intelligence-sharing network - the anglophone Five Eyes alliance of the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand - will not use technology from Huawei in its most sensitive networks, a US official said.

"What I see playing out here is a discussion amongst all of us about the realities of where do you define sensitive networks, where does that start and end," said Rob Joyce, a senior official from the US National Security Agency.

Ciaran Martin, head of the cyber centre of Britain's main eavesdropping agency, GCHQ, played down any threat of a rift in the Five Eyes alliance.

"There have been different approaches across the Five Eyes and across the allied wider Western alliance towards Huawei and towards other issues as well," said Mr Martin, head of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).

REUTERS