The UK’s decision today not to ban Huawei from its 5G networks may carry political and national security risks, but business, strategic and technical arguments seem to have won the day.
There has been the inevitable compromise to try to appease the Trump administration, whose secretary of state arrives in the UK for talks on Wednesday, and to address security concerns, yet it appears a sensible one that may infuriate but not alienate the US.
The National Security Council gave the go-ahead for Huawei’s participation, but limited the Chinese telecoms equipment maker to a market share of 35 per cent in the 5G infrastructure and excluded its kit from the sensitive “core” of the networks.
A ban would have damaged UK telcos, set back the government’s oft-stated ambitions for high-speed connectivity and created an infrastructure nightmare. Huawei equipment is already deeply embedded in Britain’s 4G networks, which are being built on initially for the introduction of 5G. At the same time, a lack of interoperability between vendors would make switching from Huawei on 5G problematic for the carriers.
The same applies in the rest of Europe and the EU will set out its guidelines for the security of 5G networks on Wednesday. There is a trade angle to all this and the continent is trying its best to escape punishment from either the US or China for whatever position it takes. The EU’s strong views on competition make it likely it will also aim to restrict Huawei’s market share. That would be good news for the main European players Ericsson and Nokia, but as Lex points out, 5G choices are limited.
The Internet of (Five) Things
1. Batteries and continuing security required
One way to ensure online security is to keep software defences updated. The UK’s Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is promising a new law that would force makers of internet-connected products such as smart speakers and baby monitors to state explicitly at time of purchase the length of time they will provide security updates.
2. WhatsApp says it was less secure in 2019
WhatsApp has reported a sharp escalation in the number of vulnerabilities it found on its platform in 2019, raising fresh questions about the security of an app that has often been hailed for safe private messaging. Data from the US National Vulnerability Database, a US government repository of flaws, shows that the Facebook-owned messaging service disclosed 12 vulnerabilities last year — seven of which were classified as “critical”. Just one or two medium-level vulnerabilities had been disclosed in previous years.
3. Coronavirus and tech’s response
Microsoft, Dell and Apple are among those making donations and Tesla has offered free charging in China’s coronavirus outbreak. Our tech team reports Chinese dependence on smartphones may become a blessing or a curse as the country tries to contain the virus.
Track trends in tech, media and telecoms from around the world
4. Apple ups iPhone orders
Barring coronavirus disruption, Apple wants its suppliers to make up to 80m iPhones over the first half of this year, people familiar with its planning have told the Nikkei Asian Review, a rise of over 10 per cent on last year’s production schedule. Apple reports quarterly earnings after the New York market closes. The Gartner research firm predicted today that global smartphone sales would grow 3 per cent in 2020 to 1.57bn units, helped by 5G adoption, after sales fell 2 per cent in 2019 — their first decline since 2008.
5. The iPad at 10
I carry one everywhere with me and was there when this “magical and revolutionary device”, as Steve Jobs described it, was unveiled in San Francisco on January 27 2010. The team behind it has been talking about its development to Input, while Wired looks back at its first decade. Here’s what the Windows team thought.
Tech tools — Scroll
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