Apr 20, 2020 - Technology

Tech rivals urge U.K. to find 5G alternative to Huawei

Huawei's logo on a traffic sign

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The anti-Huawei movement continues even as attention shifts to the coronavirus, with a group of tech firms urging the U.K. to find alternatives to using Huawei gear in 5G networks.

The big picture: The approach they propose has also been pursued by some in the White House, though many have cast doubt on its viability, especially in the short term.

Driving the news: The letter, addressed to House of Commons Defense Committee chair Tobias Ellwood, calls on Britain to scrap its current plan, which would allow "high-risk" vendors like Huawei to build up to 35% of its 5G network, as long as they don't supply gear for the network core.

"In short, the U.K. now has the opportunity to put in place the most technologically advanced 5G infrastructure without needing to rely at all on 'high-risk vendors.'"
— Letter seen by Axios
  • The letter is signed by nine less well-known tech companies who have been pursuing whats known as "ORAN," an alternative to traditional radio access network gear using standard servers and open source software.
  • The best-known company is Japan's NEC, along with Airspan, Mavenir, Parallel Wireless, Microelectronics Technology, Super Micro Computer, Altiostar, GigaTera Communications and World Wide Technology.

Yes, but: Such an approach is likely to take time and not be a ready alternative to traditional telecom systems for the first wave of 5G networks. U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr blasted it as "pie in the sky."

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