Britain scrutinizes Huawei's telecoms infrastructure role

Thu Oct 11, 2012 4:13pm EDT
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By Paul Sandle

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's parliamentary intelligence and security watchdog is scrutinizing Chinese telecoms giant Huawei Technologies Co as concerns mount on both sides of the Atlantic over the potential security threat stemming from the firm's access to communication infrastructure.

Huawei is well established in Britain, and it has a partnership with the country's largest telecoms operator, BT Group PLC, to upgrade networks that stretches back to 2005.

The company was also backed by Prime Minister David Cameron last month when Cameron met Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei - who was a technician in the People's Liberation Army some 30 years ago - to welcome a $2 billion investment by the company in Britain.

However, Huawei has faced an uphill battle in the United States, where lawmakers said on Monday that potential Chinese state influence on Huawei, the world's second-largest maker of routers and other telecoms gear, and on rival ZTE Corp,, could pose a security threat. Huawei firmly rejected the suggestion.

Malcolm Rifkind, chairman of the British committee, said the watchdog's interest in Huawei's relationship with BT predated the U.S. report.

"The issue of Huawei goes back two or three years, with both the United States and Australia, and one or two other countries, expressing concern," he said.

"There's been a particular interest in Huawei because it's a major Chinese company, but one which has its origins in individuals who were in the People's Liberation Army, and there's obviously a question mark as to the extent they are truly independent of Chinese government influence."

Huawei, which has not been called to give evidence to the committee, said it had been subject to UK government scrutiny and procedure since it opened its first office in Britain some 11 years ago.   Continued...

A Huawei logo is seen above the company's exhibition pavilion during the CommunicAsia information and communications technology trade show in Singapore in this June 19, 2012 file photograph. REUTERS/Tim Chong/Files