The UK has followed Germany in defying the US push to ban telecommunications giant Huawei - which the White House has accused of espionage and sanctions-busting - according to a media report.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has given the go-ahead to the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei to help build the UK's new 5G network, despite warnings of the potential threat to national security, the Daily Telegraph says.

British Prime Minister and National Security Council chair Theresa May on April 21. Photo / Getty.
British Prime Minister and National Security Council chair Theresa May on April 21. Photo / Getty.

The UK paper said the National Security Council (NSC), which is chaired by May, agreed on Tuesday to allow the firm limited access to build "non-core" infrastructure such as celltower antennas.

Huawei NZ deputy chief executive Andrew Bowater has told the Herald his company is willing to make the same concession here - and even have its staff barred from access to Spark's planned 5G mobile network.


The Telegraph says May's cabinet was split with some ministers, including Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt, raising concerns about the decision.

The NSC and Downing Street refused comment.

Just three weeks ago, the UK government released a report that was highly critical of Huawei's technology.

It detailed "a large amount of amateur-hour engineering flubs by Huawei," Herald columnist Juha Saarinen summarised.

But Huawei NZ's Bowater said while the account of (in his words) "shoddy code" made for "uncomfortable reading," it was a technical and process issue that could be addressed. The report did not detail any "back doors" or mechanisms deliberately designed to facilitate espionage.

Das re-boot

Mid-April, Germany's telecommunications regulator has sent a clear signal that it will not ban Huawei from its country's 5G mobile network upgrades.

Jochen Homann, the president of the Bundesnetzagentur, or federal network agency, told the Financial Times, "The position the Bundesnetzagentur takes is that no equipment supplier, including Huawei, should, or may, be specifically excluded."

Last month, the US ambassador to Berlin warned the German Government that Washington would consider scaling back intelligence co-operation should Huawei be given a role in the 5G rollout.


On November 28 last year, the GCSB blocked a Spark 5G network upgrade proposal that included Huawei gear.

GCSB minister Andrew Little says Huawei is not banned per se. Spark and Huawei are welcome to submit a revised proposal that addresses the (never-made-public) concerns raised by the spy agency.

But nearly five months later, Spark says it's still assessing its position and has yet to decide if it will re-submit.

2degrees, which uses Huawei gear throughout its network, is also expected to run an upgrade proposal past the GCSB.

Vodafone NZ, which primarily partners with Huawei rival Nokia Networks (formerly Nokia Seimens Networks) is not.

What is 5G? A brief history of mobile networks

• 1G: First-generation mobile networks that support voice calls only

• 2G: Added support for text messaging

• 3G: Web browsing and email capability added

• 4G: Boosted bandwidth to support apps, high-def streaming video

• 5G: Promises fibre-like speed, little of the lag associated with earlier mobile networks' switch two-way data connections, much-enhanced support for the "Internet of Things" or machines talking to each other over the internet