A parliamentary committee in the UK is investigating the relationship between China-based networking giant Huawei and BT, following a damning US report that said the Chinese company posed a threat to its national security.
Huawei has been supplying networking equipment to BT since 2005 and is heavily involved in supplying equipment for BT’s national superfast broadband rollout.
The UK’s relationship with Huawei is completely at odds with US, where prime minister David Cameron recently welcomed the company with open arms after it promised a £1.3 billion investment up until 2017 in research, development, centres of excellent and procurement.
The official line from parliament’s intelligence and security committee is that it is ‘considering’ the involvement of Huawei in the UK, but it would not provide any further information into specific enquiries at this stage.
However, the committee’s chairman, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, told The Guardian this week that it has been taking evidence in private for some months from members of the security services and a report will be sent to David Cameron by Christmas.
He said: “[We have been] reviewing the whole presence of Huawei in regard to our critical national infrastructure and whether that should give rise for concern.
“We are looking into the relationship that has developed between Huawei and BT and the implications for the UK.”
He added: “We wanted to look at the historical background to that contract, to what extent there were security concerns at the time, whether and to what extent the British government were involved in these decisions, and whether there have been any causes for concern that have arisen since Huawei became involved in our telecoms infrastructure.”
According to Rifkind, there are allegations circling that claim Huawei has links to the People’s Liberation Army in China, and that any Chinese company is ultimately subject to the Chinese government.
If the parliamentary committee issued a report that established similar conclusions to those released in America this week, it could be a very embarrassing situation for David Cameron who has always aimed to develop a strong trade and political relationship with China.
A spokesman for BT told Computerworld UK that it recognises that the increased globalisation of the telecoms industry means that there is a diverse range of cyber threats to consider when building and securing networks.
He said: “BT takes a risk-management approach on the use of components from Huawei and, like the UK government, we see no need to change our position following the US Report. We work closely with Huawei on commercial security best practice and our relationship with Huawei is managed strictly in accordance with UK laws.
“BT's network is underpinned by robust security controls and built-in resilience. We always work closely with each of our suppliers - and Government where appropriate - to gain assurance through rigorous review that the security of the network is not compromised.”
Huawei was contacted for a statement but had not responded at time of publication.