Huawei's UK operations unaffected, despite media hype

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Huawei's activities in the United Kingdom are continuing as usual, despite recent media hype that claimed the company's equipment had triggered security concerns, a Huawei spokeswoman told China Daily on Thursday.

"Huawei's extensive collaboration with BT and Vodafone in all the main cities in the UK hasn't changed," Cheryl Xu said. "Our industry partners place significant trust in our equipment, and we have never had a cybersecurity-related incident, be it in the UK or any other countries."

Xu was speaking a day after The Times newspaper quoted Gavin Williamson, UK's defense secretary, saying he had "very deep concerns" about Huawei being involved in upgrading the UK's mobile network. Earlier this month, Alex Younger, the head of the UK's Secret Intelligence Service, which is also known as MI6, said the UK government needed to decide if it was comfortable with Huawei providing equipment for UK networks.

During the past few weeks, numerous British media reports about BT removing Huawei components from its networks have pushed Huawei into the media spotlight.

Xu said the statements from Williamson and Younger came as "a shock" to the Huawei UK team. The fact that Huawei has no direct dealings with Williamson and Younger's departments may indicate these statements came as a result of Williamson and Younger's lack of understanding of Huawei, Xu said.

And she stressed that media reports relating to BT are "not an accurate reflection of the real situation", explaining instead that, because BT already uses Huawei equipment extensively for its radio access networks, BT has a policy of not using Huawei equipment for its core networks, in order to achieve diversification of procurement.

When BT acquired EE, another operator, in 2016 and realized that EE's core networks contained Huawei equipment, BT started removing Huawei equipment from those EE core networks in its post-merger integration stage, in accordance with this procurement policy.

"What BT did started in 2016, and has no links with security concerns at all," Xu explained.

And Xu's accounts were supported by BT.

A BT spokesman said in a statement: "Huawei remains an important equipment provider outside the core network, and a valued innovation partner."

The BT spokesman added that the company's actions have not changed at all since 2016.

"What has happened is that journalists have reported on existing programs that we have in place," he said.

Huawei has been effectively banned from the United States since 2012 when a congressional probe raised national security concerns. And Australia blocked Huawei and fellow Chinese telecoms company ZTE from providing 5G equipment in August. New Zealand's government followed suit in November.

Tension escalated when Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada while transferring in Vancouver for a flight to Mexico. Meng is the chief financial officer at Huawei and daughter of the company's founder, Ren Zhengfei.

The events pushed Huawei into the glare of the media spotlight, but Xu said Huawei's activities in the UK have so far been unaffected.

Huawei has been in Britain for more than 17 years, with its equipment checked and monitored by a special company laboratory overseen by government and intelligence operators. Earlier this month Huawei announced a new $2 billion commitment to improve its mobile and internet network systems globally.

Between 2012 and 2017, Huawei has invested or procured 2 billion pounds ($2.55 billion) in the UK, where it employs about 1,500 people. In February 2018, Huawei announced it planned to spend a further 3 billion pounds on British technology and services during the next five years.

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