Huawei beats British security concerns with new LTE contracts

Huawei has won three new LTE network rollout contracts in British Crown dependencies, despite the increasing nervousness of the British government about the security of the Chinese vendor's infrastructure.

Batelco, the largest telecoms operator in Bahrain, last week signed an agreement with Huawei covering the rollout of LTE networks for the telco's SURE subsidiary in Guernsey, Jersey, and Isle of Man.

The deal, signed on the sidelines of the Bahrain International Airshow, covers supply of LTE base stations, and integration of the new kit with SURE's existing GSM/HSPA infrastructure.

"Huawei's technical expertise and their experience in implementing cutting-edge communications solutions will be invaluable attributes," said Batelco chairman, Shaikh Hamad bin Abdulla Al Khalifa.

The Batelco deal was announced in the same week as reports that Huawei is facing increased scrutiny by the UK government over the security of its infrastructure.

Three government departments – the Home Office, Ministry for Justice, and Crown Prosecution Service – last week reportedly stripped out Huawei video conferencing equipment over fears the gear is allowing China to listen in on high-level operational meetings, the Daily Mail reported.

UK authorities last year issued a warning about the security of infrastructure from Huawei, cautioning it could be used to intercept or disrupt communications. In December, the government ordered its communications intelligence agency, GCHQ, to increase its involvement with Huawei's Cyber Security Evaluation Centre, the BBC reported.

Huawei has supplied telecoms equipment to the UK since 2005, when it signed its first deal with BT. The country has so far stopped short of implementing restrictions on the use of equipment from the vendor, despite its close relationship with the US where criticism of Huawei's security credentials prompted the firm to abandon the market in early December.

A Huawei spokesperson told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper that the Chinese vendor's videoconferencing equipment conforms to global security standards, and denied it is open to abuse by China's government.

In October John Suffolk, Huawei's global cyber security officer, called for closer collaboration between the communications industry and governments in order to find a balance between the need for national security and privacy.

"The more that governments, enterprises and technology vendors can detail common standards, understand their purpose and the positive difference they make and commit to their effective adoption…the more the world will begin to see a difference," Suffolk said in a panel discussion.

Also in October, Ken Hu, deputy chairman of Huawei's board and chair of its Global Cyber Security committee, reiterated that the company has "never been asked to provide access to our technology, or provide any data or information on any citizen or organization to any government, or their agencies."

He made the comment in the opening remarks of Huawei's second white paper on cyber security, which outlines the company's approach to addressing current and future security challenges.

For more:
- see this Batelco release
- see this Daily Mail article
- see this BBC report
- see this Telegraph article

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