On 19th July 2018 the UK government, through the GCHQ backed Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre, gave “limited assurance” that Huawei poses no threat to UK National Security. Since then the UK, EU, and NATO member government politicians and security services have all raised concerns about the nation-state cyber threat posed by the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei.
There has been particular political unease around the Huawei provision of network infrastructure devices (i.e. switches and routers etc.) within the UK national infrastructure, devices which controls network traffic and capable of accessing the data that traverses them. Huawei has been operating in the UK market for 18 years, whether its their smart phones or a network devices, Huawei products are generally far cheaper than their competitors' equivalents. This has led to major telecoms providers such as BT, purchasing and implementing Huawei network devices within their telecommunications infrastructure and data centres, some of which are regarded as critical components within the UK national infrastructure. As such, Huawei has been subject to unfavourable security scrutiny, which has recently spilt out into political and media arenas.
Huawei has always denied its products poses a threat, and there is no evidence of any malicious capability or activity publicly disclosure by any UK intelligence agencies or cyber security firms. But there is also the Chinese 2017 National Intelligence Law, which states that Chinese organisations are obliged to "support, cooperate with, and collaborate in, national intelligence work".
Three nations in the intelligence alliance ‘Five Eyes’, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, have effectively prohibited the installation of Huawei equipment within their generation telecommunications equipment, namely 5G networks. The remaining two members of "Five Eyes", the United Kingdom and Canada, are expected to state their position within the coming months. The UK's National Cyber Security Centre has published warnings about the Chinese company's security standards. Elsewhere, nations including France, Germany and India have expressed their concerns about the use of Huawei equipment within their telecommunications 5G upgrades.
On 4th February, a leaked draft 'Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre' 2019 report, said the issues and findings it had raised previously had not been fully addressed by Huawei, and was critical about the security of Huawei's technology.
Then on 6th February 2019, a letter sent to MPs by Huawei was published. In it Huawei said it could take up to five years to address security issues raised by the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre, at a cost of $2bn (£1.5bn) of their own money. The president of Huawei's carrier business group also said the process of adapting its software and engineering processes to meet the UK's requirements was "like replacing components on a high-speed train in motion".
Huawei also made the following points in the letter to rebut the threat allegations, "Huawei is a closely watched company. Were Huawei ever to engage in malicious behaviour, it would not go unnoticed - and it would certainly destroy our business. For us, it is a matter of security or nothing; there is no third option. We choose to ensure security." The letter also addressed the Chinese 2017 National Intelligence Law, stating "no Chinese law obliges any company to install backdoors", a position they have backed up by an international law firm based in London. The letter went on to say that Huawei would refuse requests by the Chinese government to plant backdoors, eavesdropping or spyware on its telecommunications equipment.
The ball is now in the UK government's court, in the next couple of months we shall see if the UK Gov bans Huawei or continues to work with them to help assure the implied national security threat of their products. A ban could well result in Huawei pulling out of the UK market altogether, taking their billions of pounds of investment with them, and would likely negatively impact post Brexit trade deal negotiations between the UK and China, so we can expect the situation to become even more political in the short term.
Huawei Threat News Timeline
- Oct-12 United States congressional panel warns that Huawei and rival ZTE pose a security threat, following an investigation
- Jul-13 Huawei denies claims made by a former US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) chief that it spied for the Chinese government
- Oct-14 Huawei banned for bidding on US government & US Military contracts
- 26-Jul-18 Mark Evans, chief executive of Telefonica UK, the company behind the O2 brand, said the operator was less reliant on Huawei than rivals BT and Vodafone.
- 23-Aug-18 Huawei and ZTE given 5G network ban in Australia
- 15-Oct-18 Ex-security minister Admiral Lord West calls for urgent UK government action after Chinese firms are banned in Australia and the US
- 6-Nov-18 Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and Ciaran Martin, the head of the National Cyber Security Centre, wrote to several telecoms groups to check security 5G suppliers, in a move that industry figures said was targeted at Huawei
- 23-Nov-18 US presses allies to ditch Huawei citing cybersecurity risks from China FBI Director Christopher Wry said the US government was “deeply concerned about the risks”
- 28-Nov-18 New Zealand government security agency bars Chinese firm on national security fears
- 3-Dec-18 M16 Chief Questions China's role UK tech sector
- 5-Dec-18 BT bars Huawei's 5G kit from core of network
- 6-Dec-18 Huawei finance chief Meng Wanzhou arrested in Canada, at the request of the US
- 7-Dec-18 At a court hearing, it is revealed that Ms Wanzhou is wanted in the US on fraud charges relating to the alleged breaking of US sanctions on Iran
- 7-Dec-18 EU's technology commissioner Andrus Ansip said countries "have to be worried“ about Chinese manufacturers
- 24-Dec-18 Huawei's kit removed from UK emergency services 4G network
- 27-Dec-18 UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson's said he has "very deep concerns“ about Huawei being involved in upgrading the UK's mobile network.
- 10-Dec-18 Huawei pledges to invest US$2bn into its security systems in the UK
- 28-Dec-18 China accuses the UK of 'pride and prejudice’ over security fears about Huawei
- 12-Jan-19 Huawei sacks an employee arrested in Poland on suspicion of spying.
- 14-Jan-19 Poland considers ban on Huawei products after spying arrest
- 15-Jan-19 Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei denies firm poses spying risk in rare interview
- 16-Jan-19 The US is reportedly investigating Huawei for "stealing trade secrets"
- 17-Jan-19 University of Oxford suspends new donations and sponsorships by Huawei
- 22-Jan-19 Huawei warns it may pull out of some countries
- 24-Jan-19 Prince's Trust suspends ties with Huawei
- 31-Jan-19 UK decision on Huawei ban expected in March
- 4-Feb-19 Leading security academic told The Times about the "risk of a Chinese takeover by stealth", appeared to have been “wholly ignored”
- 4-Feb-19 Huawei spying alert 6 years ago ‘wholly ignored’
- 6-Feb-19 Huawei offers to build cyber security centre in Poland
- 6-Feb-19 Huawei warns MPs it could take to five years to resolve hardware issues
- 12-Feb-19 Huawei blames ‘jealousy' for cybersecurity criticism
- 15-Feb-19 Mobile networks call for 5G security inspector
- 18-Feb-19 The US cannot crush us, says Huawei founder
- 18-Feb-19 Britain 'believes Huawei 5G security risks can be mitigated'
- 19-Feb-19 5G security risks remain even if Huawei gets the all clear
- 20-Feb-19 "Britain is vulnerable to 'ruthless' Chinese interference campaign and must block Huawei, report claims', says UK defense think-tank
- 20-Feb-19 Could Huawei threaten the Five Eyes alliance?
- 21-Feb-19 NCSC: UK has 'toughest and most rigorous oversight regime in the world for Huawei'
- 21-Feb-19 Huawei speeds up efforts to address security concerns as Trump leaves door open to US market
- 22-Feb-19 5G networks: Trump says US shouldn't block technology
Who are Huawei?
The 5G Evolution5G is expected emerge in the UK in late 2019 and early 2020, and will be much faster than 4G. The theoretical maximum speed for 4G is 1Gbps, while the theoretical maximum speed for 5G is 20Gbps, so 5G is potentially up to 20 times faster than 4G. Potentially faster than the UK average broadband speed, which stands at 18.57Gbps.
- Chinese multinational conglomerate which specialises in telecommunications equipment, consumer electronics and technology-based services and products.
- HQ in Shenzhen, Guangdong
- Founded in 1987 by Ren Zhengfei, a former engineer in the People's Liberation Army
- Largest telecommunications-equipment manufacturer in the world
- Overtook from Apple in 2018 as the second-largest manufacturer of smartphones in the world
- 72nd on the Fortune Global 500 list
- 180,000 employees
- Chinese military remain an important customer for Huawei
- Invests Billions into R&D around world
- 3 Billions Customers Globally
- Operating within the UK for 18 years
- Made a five year commitment (2018 to 2023) to invest £3 billion in the UK.
- Allegations its equipment may contain backdoors to allow unauthorised surveillance and/or data theft by the Chinese government and the People’s Liberation Army
Mobile networks are changing with the arrival of 5G and the impact of this change will be felt across the industry. Adrian Taylor, regional VP of sales for A10 Networks, provides the follow insight about the impact of 5G on the market and how it will change the enterprise world.
5G and the Evolution of Mobile NetworksFifth generation networks, just like the preceding 4G LTE and WiMAX networks, are expected to greatly increase available bandwidth, with improved end-to-end performance providing a better end-user experience. In the most basic of terms, 4G LTE was the long-term evolution of Radio Access Networks (RAN); 5G is the next iteration.
Wireless carriers have invested billions into their networks to support the ongoing demand for faster network speeds. They must look for ways to increase revenue while delivering more value to the end user. This continues to drive new devices into the hands of the consumer. The demand for increased efficiencies, bandwidth, and coverage has pushed carriers towards a decentralised deployment model.Service providers monitor and review technology for advancements that will help deliver faster and less expensive networks. Recently, they have looked into areas of Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) and automation to support their advancements. Mobile network operators are investing heavily in reducing delays and errors through repetitive processes as they build and add capacity to existing 4G networks.
Network Virtualisation Remains in The Early Stages
Virtualisation and Software Defined Networks (SDN) improvements are driving a shift from hardware to software. SDN is promising, but it’s not an instant solution, as purpose-built hardware still remains the preferred choice. NFV and SDN have offered service providers an alternative to existing methods, including dedicated appliances sitting idle. However, it’s safe to say that the age of virtualisation remains in the early stages.
5G’s impact is expected to extend beyond the typical mobile network carriers/operators such as Virgin Media, EE, O2, and Sky in the UK and overseas. It promises to enable increased connectivity and flexibility, that will drive additional functions throughout all supportive components of a mobile carrier’s network.
Hardware manufacturers and service providers are now betting on the acceptance and success of virtualised functions. Software development continues at breakneck speed to meet timelines and demands for more integrated solutions, which easily scale and reduce operational overheads at the same time.
The 5G Revenue Opportunity
RAN access providers face the question of how to support the ever-increasing appetite for cutting the cord. How can we use our mobile devices in more ways than previously thought, as the end user goes about their daily tasks? This mobility, whether it’s tied to a carrier’s technology or even a simple Wi-Fi home network, reaches all corners of our day-to-day life.
The continued expansion of 5G networks will have a revolutionary impact upon every mobile subscriber and business in the world.
This reach extends from the cloud to the data centre environments and continues to drive capacity needs, supported by both legacy appliances and the ever-increasing virtual environments. This continued appetite for consumption has opened up opportunities for all facets of technology and associated vendors.
5G Mobile Network Evolution
The fundamental market forces of network evolution are not based on wired or wireless infrastructure. Companies are currently focused on upgrading existing mobile networks. Whereas at the exact same time, NFV, SDN and the global IoT industry are all preparing to utilise the next generation of mobile networks.
Software solutions are easier to move from concept to production and frequently offer a lower up-front investment cost. This all adds up to help drive increased functionality for all service providers, including the wired infrastructure.
5G and IoT will be demand-driven. As a result, the more the infrastructure expands to meet that demand, the more opportunities will be uncovered. It’s a positive feedback loop that will revolutionise how we think of the internet.
Get ready for a world that will be changed forever with the next generation mobile networks on the horizon.