• Reece Bithrey

Huawei & 5G - Is It The Future Or A Threat To National Security?


(Picture Credit - Engadget)

News broke recently surrounding a major issue to do with Chinese phone manufacturer Huawei and the great debate surrounding the future of ultrafast mobile phone networks. Specifically, the next 'step-up' of these networks, 5G and whether or not Huawei are a reliable developer for the expansion of 5G networks worldwide, or a real threat to any country's national security.


First of all, let's actually get what 5G is down on paper. As a new network, it's meant to be faster than the older 4G system, allowing speeds of up to the fastest home broadband networks. It will feature smaller transmitters than the old 4G too, with the size of the newer base stations equivalent to that of a small fridge. This also allows for better overall coverage, with signal masts having the ability to be situated in places that would have otherwise been unreachable. Smaller stations also means more of them in a smaller area; theoretically, they could be placed on every street corner, in lampposts or something similar. It will also allow for the unsightly messes that are current radio towers to stop spoiling the wonderful countryside views we have in Great Britain.


Turning back a few weeks, there were talks at the National Security Council concerning the UK becoming involved with Huawei's 5G networking and then Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson giving the go-ahead for the Chinese company's involvement. However, this would be on the 'edge' of the systems, and not the 'core', where the UK fears that the Chinese spies could manifest themselves. Huawei apparently have strong ties to the communist Chinese Government and the founder, Ren Zhengfei, is a known member of their Communist Party. It is these ties that has led people to believe that Huawei are a major threat to national security - it is almost a technological 'Red Scare' being felt worldwide against state-owned and far-left aligned firms.


As a result of this, and in tandem with the large trade war between China and the USA, American firms such as Google has limited access for new Huawei devices to all Google-based applications such as YouTube and Google Maps. Plus, the entire Android operating system is now not fully supported on new Huawei devices and will not continue to receive the individual application updates. This means that, eventually, Huawei devices will become unsupported on Android, albeit a lot quicker than the usual unsupported devices do, leaving the Chinese firm in a predicament with regards to whether they develop their own operating system to try and rival the open-source Android OS.


News also broke earlier of contract providers EE and Vodafone dropping Huawei phones from their own 5G network launches. EE, who will become the UK's first 5G provider as of the 30th May, are launching the faster network in six major cities - London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester. By the end of the year, that will be expanded to sixteen cities including Sheffield, Liverpool and Glasgow and this will apparently grow even further to fifty towns and cities through the course of 2020.


In addition, chip manufacturer ARM, who are based in Cambridge have also suspended business with Huawei and the reason for this is to comply with the 'blacklist' order the United States have placed on Huawei. Once a firm has been blacklisted, like that of ZTE last year, it is near-impossible to be removed. As a result of the lack of chips coming from ARM, as well as both Intel and Qualcomm, Huawei are perceived to be developing their own processing units. BT are also apparently in the process of removing Huawei from the main areas of their 4G network, which are the major backdoors into cybersecurity breaches.


Measures from such high-profile firms such as Intel and Google to phase out Huawei from their business plans ought to cause a major paranoia amongst consumers. Despite their exemplary advertising on systems such as the P20 Pro, it'll be hard for consumers to look at any Huawei products without the small echoes of these 5G incidents in the back of minds and so, we may well see sales of Huawei products drop as a consequence.


In conclusion, whilst 5G may be the future for our phone networks, Huawei may not necessarily be the correct provider to lead the charge for the development of such. The hysteria may eventually pass despite these incidents worldwide and with native companies such as EE developing 5G networks themselves, they should be more reliable and trustworthy than Huawei and lead from the front into the new age of phone networking.

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