Huawei’s future in the UK is in doubt – again
THE consequences could affect how quickly improved internet access is rolled out and how much it will cost. This a time when the country’s economy is already in a precarious state because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The catalyst for a potential rethink is the US’s move to restrict the firm’s ability to buy chips, which was justified on “national security grounds”.
On Sunday, the UK’s National Security Centre (NCSC) confirmed it was examining what impact this would have on the UK networks that use Huawei’s tech.
That sounds quite vague. But it potentially paves the way for a government U-turn.
In January, the prime minister gave the green light to continued use of the firm’s tech in mobile and broadband networks, but said its its market share must be reduced.
Now he might appreciate the chance for change of mind.
It would help Boris Johnson prevent backbenchers who favour a ban from derailing his forthcoming Telecoms Infrastructure Bill.
Moreover, it offers him a way to defuse tensions with the White House, which has said continued use of Huawei will have a “dramatic impact on our ability to share [security] information”.
Mr Johnson and President Trump may meet next month at a mooted G7 summit. Blocking Huawei could help secure a post-Brexit trade deal, even if it made relations with China trickier.
But the company warns there would be consequences.
“More suppliers means greater competition, innovation and network reliability, and crucially ensures consumers have access to the best possible technology,” Victor Zhang, Huawei’s UK chief, told the BBC.
“Removing Huawei would seriously delay 5G, costing the British economy up to £7bn,” he added, citing a study published last year by Mobile UK, a trade group that represents UK network operators.
Part of the reason mobile providers are concerned is that the current version of 5G relies on new equipment being plugged into existing 4G kit from the same vendor.
“A lot of the 4G expansion was software-upgradeable to do 5G when an extra mast antenna was fitted,” explained Andrew Ferguson, editor-in-chief of the news site ThinkBroadband.
So, he added, even if a Huawei ban was limited to the newer technology, networks would still have to rip out and replace some of their older infrastructure as well.
“It’s not only a very expensive process for the operators, but it’s going to be a time-consuming one as well because they need to get access to all those sites to make the changes,” added Matthew Howett from Assembly, the consultancy that wrote Mobile UK’s report.
“And Huawei has been very innovative at coming up with the smallest and lightest 5G equipment, meaning the operators can sometimes just use a cherry picker to hook it onto existing mast infrastructure. Some of the others’ is heavier and bulkier, which can require more in terms of getting planning consent and road closures.”
Huawei’s major 5G rivals are Nokia and Ericsson – two European firms.
The networks claim that having three providers to choose from helps them negotiate lower prices.
In many cases, they want a mix of two suppliers so that if technical problems arise with one they can fall back on the other to provide a reduced service.
A study commissioned by Huawei last year claimed locking it out would increase a country’s 5G investment costs by between 8% and 29% due to reduced competition.
And if mobile providers have to spend more, consumers can expect their bills to rise too.
But one MP opposed to Huawei’s rollout says there are more important considerations.
“There’s a free and fair competition element here, there’s a security element, there’s a data-privacy element, and there’s a sort of geopolitics of Chinese influence as well – the influence of the Chinese Communist Party,” Bob Seely, a member of the foreign affairs committee, told the BBC.
“There shouldn’t on principle be high-risk vendors in the communications network.”
Huawei denies it uses state subsidies to undercut its rivals, adding that it would never spy on China’s behalf or otherwise deliberately compromise its clients.
Political battle looming over UK China relations
Huawei calls US rules ‘arbitrary and pernicious’
Huawei urges UK not to make 5G U-turn after pandemic
Huawei is also a big player in fixed-line broadband.
It currently accounts for about 44% of the equipment used in providing super-fast full-fibre connections directly to homes, office and other buildings, according to UK regulator Ofcom.
BT’s Openreach division aims to bring that in line with a 35% government target by using more kit from Nokia and the US firm Adtran.
But this sidesteps the fact that more properties rely on an alternative set-up in which fibre only reaches roadside cabinets, and the last leg is supplied by a copper-based connection.
The reason this is relevant is that tens of thousands of the cabinets involved are Huawei’s. –BBC
Lonely Peruvians go online to learn to say ‘I miss you’ in the language of the Incas
LIMA: Homesick Peruvians around the world in coronavirus lockdowns have been logging online in rising numbers to learn Quechua, the Andean language spoken by the Inca people.
Qorichaska Quispe, whose first name means “Golden Bird” in Quechua, told Reuters there had been a six-fold increase in hits on her “Vive el Quechua” Facebook page this April compared to last year, with students logging on from Peru but also Europe, Asia and elsewhere in South America.
One class in which the shyly smiling Quispe taught her followers to say “I love you” and “I miss you” drew 6,000 viewers. Others celebrating folkloric heroes, ancestral food, and native species attracted up to 14,000.
“During quarantine, we can all feel sad or lonely at times, some people are far from their families, and we offer them a reminder of their identity,” Quispe told Reuters.
Quechua spread across southern Latin America with the Incan Empire five centuries ago and is at present spoken by some 10 million people, 3.7 million of them in Peru, where it is one of three official languages.
Speakers largely live in remote areas, however, and it has ceased to be passed down through generations, with most Peruvians opting for Spanish instead.
Now there are the green shoots of a cultural renaissance, with Quechua redeployed for a state television news broadcast, a box office hit film and in rap songs garnering cult status on YouTube.
One of Quispe’s students told Reuters he had previously tried to learn but stopped for lack of time.
Another, Paloma Abregú, who was born in the Peruvian highlands but now lives in the capital Lima, said she wanted to understand her background better.
“A language carries quite a different culture and world view, which can only be understood when you speak it,” she said. – Reuters
Gatesgate: US poll shows 44% of Republicans think Microsoft founder wants to use coronavirus vaccine to microchip them
A US poll taken last week found 44% of Republicans think Bill Gates is working on a coronavirus vaccine because he wants to plant a microchip in them and monitor their movements.
Yahoo News and YouGov found nearly half of Republicans believe that baseless conspiracy theory and may be resistant to using a vaccine that could end the pandemic. The poll also found that 19% of Democrats believe that story is credible while 52% know it is false. Only 26% of Republicans surveyed were certain the Microsoft founder is not hatching such a plot.
According to that study, 50% of those who believe the Gates theory cite Fox News as their primary source for television news. While Fox News’ coverage of the pandemic has been widely mocked, Yahoo notes the Gates’ theory is not among the narratives the right-wing cable outlet has pushed.
Of those who cited MSNBC as their primary TV news source, 15% bought into the Gates theory while 61% recognised it as untrue.
The survey also found that liberals are not immune to false narratives, including the rumour that Covid-19 deaths have already surged in states that have been quicker to reopen.
More than 80% of Democrats, Republicans and independents agree that misinformation about coronavirus is being reported. They just split on what that information is and who’s misreporting it.
Through his foundation, Gates has committed US$300mil (RM1.30bil) to curbing the coronavirus pandemic. The 64-year-old tech innovator and philanthropist’s US$107bil (RM466.89bil) net worth makes him the second-wealthiest person alive, behind Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. – New York Daily News/Tribune News Service