UK tells telecoms to stockpile Huawei gear in face of U.S. sanctions - letter
By Jack Stubbs and Kate Holton
LONDON (Reuters) - British security officials have asked British telecommunications operators to ensure that they have sufficient stocks of Huawei devices, fearing that new U.S. sanctions may affect the Chinese company's ability to maintain critical deliveries. This emerges from a letter from Reuters.
Britain gave Huawei a limited role in its future 5G networks in January, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson has since been pressured again by Washington and some of his own party's lawmakers who say the company's equipment poses a security risk. Huawei has repeatedly denied the allegations.
National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) officials are currently evaluating the impact of U.S. measures announced in May to limit Huawei's ability to source the advanced microchips required to manufacture its 5G devices and flagship smartphones are.
Senior NCSC officials wrote to operators such as the British BT Group and Vodafone last week. Three people familiar with the matter asked them to maintain an adequate supply of spare parts from all manufacturers.
However, the letter also highlighted the increased risk for Huawei devices and its future ability to provide updates for these products in the face of US pressure.
"To ensure the security of networks, it is important that products and components are kept up to date," the letter said. "Escalating US measures against Huawei may affect ability to provide updates for products that contain US technology."
An NCSC spokeswoman said: "The NCSC has taken a number of precautions to operators that we recommend while carefully reviewing the impact of these sanctions on UK networks."
Victor Zhang, Vice President of Huawei, said: "Our customers are our top priority and we work with them to ensure business continuity. We strongly oppose US policy measures that are designed to harm our business and are not based on evidence . ""
BT and Vodafone declined to comment.
The UK classified Huawei as a "high-risk provider" in January by limiting its 5G stake to a 35% market share and excluding it from the data-intensive core of the network.
Officials are now saying that they are reviewing the specific guidelines for deploying Huawei devices to best secure networks in the UK and are considering a number of options. A decision is due in the coming weeks.
Any move by London to further restrict Huawei or block the company entirely would put pressure on relations with China, which have been strained in recent months due to Beijing's handling of the Hong Kong situation and the COVID-19 pandemic.
(Reporting by Jack Stubbs and Kate Holton; editing by Kirsten Donovan and Alex Richardson)
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