File photo: IC

The British government is confident of making a decision on its 5G telecoms network that is in its own national interests, British Ambassador to China Barbara Woodward told the Global Times on Tuesday.

“The decision will be both in terms of technology and national security,” said Woodward on the sidelines of the opening ceremony of “UK Day,” showcasing British gardening and culture, which was observed at the ongoing International Horticultural Exhibition in Beijing on Tuesday.

Woodward said that the UK has not decided which companies will be involved in the next-generation system or when the decision will be announced.

When asked by the Global Times whether the UK will be influenced by the US toward 5G technologies provided by Chinese technology giant Huawei, Woodward said the UK has a good relationship with Huawei as well as a strong and growing relationship with China.

“We haven’t yet made a decision about how we’ll tender our 5G contracts, but as you know, we have a good relationship with Huawei. Yes, our new prime minister has had close contacts with the US, but it’s also true he has had very warm letters from the senior leadership of the Chinese government,” Woodward noted.

“The UK has had a very strong partnership with Huawei over the past 10 to 15 years. Huawei has a strong presence in the UK’s telecommunications, 3G and 4G. It has a strong presence in R&D in the UK. It has sponsored a lot of events in the UK so I would say Huawei is very well-established in the UK as a telecommunications partner and that’s important,” Woodward said.

The speed and data that 5G can bring are wanted, while it is equally significant to “make sure in all this that our citizens are going to be secure,” she added.  

In July, the British government published a report looking at the challenges of moving to 5G in the UK, which concluded that the nation needs to develop and pursue a diversification strategy – including by working with international partners – to ensure a competitive, sustainable and diverse supply chain, while keeping the new security framework under regular review.

Despite being urged to deal with the specific issue of Huawei, the British government has held off. 

The UK is set to announce its decision on 5G by the autumn, the BBC reported in August, citing British Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan.

Industry analysts have said there seem to be no alternatives for the UK if the government bans Huawei’s involvement in the 5G networks. Such a ban would be a major blow to the speed with which 5G can be rolled out in the UK.

Accusing Huawei of being a security threat, the US has been forcing its allies, the UK in particular, to exclude Huawei equipment from its 5G networks. However, the US hasn’t shown any convincing evidence to support its accusations.

Meanwhile, Huawei is continuously expanding its footprint in the UK. For example, UK mobile operator Three launched its first 5G broadband service in August, using Huawei wireless gear, making it the third UK carrier to use the Chinese telecommunications giant’s products despite the US push for its allies to block the company.

Two other UK carriers – EE and Vodafone – have also used Huawei’s 5G equipment.

Huawei has secured more than 50 5G commercial contracts globally and has shipped more than 200,000 5G base stations, the company said on September 3.