The Huawei logo in Dongguan, China. Picture: REUTERS/TYRONE SIU
The Huawei logo in Dongguan, China. Picture: REUTERS/TYRONE SIU

London — China has warned Britain not to discriminate against companies involved in developing the 5G network and to resist pressure from other countries over whether it should work with Huawei Technologies.

Huawei, the world’s biggest telecoms equipment maker, is under intense scrutiny after the US told allies not to use the company’s technology because of fears it could be a vehicle for Chinese spying. Huawei has denied this.

Sources said on Wednesday Britain’s national security council had decided to bar Huawei from all core parts of the country’s 5G network and restrict its access to noncore parts.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, China’s ambassador to Britain Liu Xiaoming defended Huawei as having a good track record on security and said Britain should “make decisions independently and in accordance with their national interests”.

“The last thing the world needs is the introduction of any sort of discriminatory measures towards companies involved in 5G network development. The last thing China expects from a truly open and fair ‘global Britain’ is a playing field that is not level,” he wrote.

Liu said security concerns about the development of 5G networks were understandable but could be managed.

‘Risks are real’

“The risks should be taken seriously but risks must not be allowed to incite fear. They can be managed, provided countries and companies work together,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dutch telecom firm Royal KPN said on Friday it would select a Western supplier to build its core 5G mobile network, making it one of the first European operators to make clear it would not pick China’s Huawei for such work.

The US has been seeking to discourage its allies from using equipment made by Huawei because of concerns that it could be used for spying by the Chinese government. Huawei says such worries are baseless and US policy is driven by economic interests.

KPN, based in The Hague and the Netherlands’ largest telecom firm, said Huawei would supply 5G radio equipment, which it considers less sensitive. CFO Jan Kees de Jager said the decision took into account concerns heard in the Dutch political debate and was in line with the stance to be taken by the UK, according to leaked government plans.

“They see the core networks as somewhat more critical than the radio access networks,” said De Jager, who served as the Netherlands’ finance minister from 2010-2012.

The Dutch government has yet to take a stance on the issue, although the head of the country’s intelligence agency in April warned against buying technology from Russia or China, countries whose spying activities he said threatened national security.

Although Huawei has been a key supplier to KPN over the past decade, De Jager argued the company’s purchasing costs would not rise by excluding Huawei in favour of companies such as Nokia and Ericsson for its core equipment. KPN also reported on Friday slightly worse than expected first-quarter core earnings of $627m.

The core of a 5G network is where the most critical controls are located and the most sensitive information is stored, while the periphery includes masts, antennas and other passive equipment. KPN said it would use equipment made by Huawei, which it described as a world leader in radio and antenna technology, to improve security on its existing network.

“This preliminary agreement can be adjusted or reversed to align it with future Dutch government policy,” it said.

The Dutch government set up a task force with KPN and other major operators in the Netherlands in April to analyse the “vulnerability of 5G telecommunications networks to misuse by technology vendors ... and measures needed to manage risks”.

The government is expected to make a statement on its position on the use of Chinese technology by the end of June.