New Delhi: The United Kingdom is pursuing an alliance of ten democracies in order to create an alternative pool of 5G equipment and technologies to avoid reliance on China and especially its telecom giant Huawei, reported UK daily The Times.
Dubbed as the D10 alliance, it would include India, Australia, and South Korea, in addition to G7 countries, France, Canada, Germany, Japan, Italy, the US, and the UK.
This comes just months after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson granted Huawei a limited role in supplying kits for the UK’s 5G networks and capped its market share to 35 per cent. Back then, the UK was one of those who stood out in the face of a US-led drive to ban Huawei from entering the 5G sector.
But by the third week of May, the Johnson government came under increasing pressure from its own Conservative party members, who demanded that Huawei’s equipment should not be allowed in UK’s 5G networks beyond 2023, owing to potential national security concerns.
Following these demands, reports emerged the government was drawing up a plan to phase out Huawei from UK’s 5G networks in the next three years. Last week, a review was launched by the country’s intelligence chiefs, who would look into Huawei’s role in UK’s 5G plans.
UK’s alliance meant to marginalise China
The UK government has already approached Washington about its plan to form the D10 alliance and briefed them about the possible ways to go about it.
Explaining why the UK had initially allowed Huawei, a source in Whitehall told The Times, “We need new entrants to the market. That was the reason we ended up having to go along with Huawei at the time.”
The key thrust behind this alliance is to allow more and more 5G equipment and technology providers to come up. At the same time, ensure that these new entrants belong to like-minded democratic regimes, thus alleviating any security concerns.
“One option would see the club channel investment to technology companies based within its member states. Nokia and Ericsson are the only European suppliers of 5G infrastructure and experts say that they cannot provide 5G kit as quickly or as cheaply as Huawei,” stated the report in The Times.
The plan to form a democratic alliance in order to marginalise the Chinese tech giant Huawei comes at a time when there is rising global backlash against China for its initial handling of the coronavirus outbreak. There is also growing consensus among the British political class regarding resetting relations with Beijing, following the global pandemic and the havoc it has caused in the UK.
Moreover, there has been a concerted effort by the US and several other countries to keep Huawei away from their countries’ 5G networks. These countries have raised concerns regarding potential surveillance and breach of their national security by China using the state-run Huawei.
US sanctions against Huawei & UK intelligence review
Earlier this month, the US government announced its decision to impose more sanctions against Huawei, doubling down its effort to marginalise the Chinese state-owned tech giant. The new round of sanction, which is set to be introduced in September, would restrict Huawei from using US-produced software and semiconductors in the manufacturing of 5G equipment.
This would force Huawei to seek semiconductors and software from alternative sources.
Following this announcement, the British government decided to launch an emergency review into how these sanctions would affect Huawei’s ability to supply 5G technology to the UK. The review being conducted by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre is expected to conclude that the US’s sanctions would make it impossible for the UK to use Huawei’s 5G technology.
“Whitehall sources said the threatened US restrictions meant that any review would almost certainly say that Huawei posed a security risk. A particular concern was that Huawei would become reliant on unfamiliar and untested components, which could be exploited,” noted a report in The Guardian.
Meanwhile, Huawei has denied all the allegations made by the US and other countries, and said the US ban would “damage the trust and collaboration within the global semiconductor industry”.