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US Acknowledges SE Asia Countries not Heeding Warnings about Security Risks of Choosing Huawei for 5G

Thai authorities indicated that the affordability of Huawei's 5G services offset potential concerns over cybersecurity

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FILE - A receptionist stands at the front counter of the Huawei's Cyber Security Lab at the Huawei factory in Dongguan, China's Guangdong province, March 6, 2019. VOA

Xu Ning from VOA Mandarin and reporter Rob Garver contributed to this report.

The United States is acknowledging that many countries are not heeding warnings about the possible security risks in allowing Chinese tech giant Huawei to build the next generation of high-speech wireless networks known as 5G.

The trend is particularly clear in Southeast Asia, where even U.S. allies are racing ahead to partner with Huawei and launch 5G networks in the coming years.

In February, Thailand launched a Huawei 5G test network in Chonburi. Thai authorities indicated that the affordability of Huawei’s 5G services offset potential concerns over cybersecurity.

In the Philippines, its Globe Telecom is rolling out the nation’s 5G network in partnership with Huawei.

In Malaysia, the country’s leading communications and digital services company Maxis signed a memorandum of understanding with Huawei to cooperate and accelerate 5G development.

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FILE – Visitors look at a display for 5G wireless technology from Chinese technology firm Huawei at the PT Expo in Beijing, China, Sept. 26, 2018. VOA

This week, six former top U.S. military officials, including two who were commanders for the U.S. Pacific Command, issued a blunt warning of a future where a Chinese-developed 5G network could be widely adopted among American allies.

“There is reason for concern that in the future the U.S. will not be able to use networks that rely on Chinese technology for military operations in the territories of traditional U.S. allies or emerging partners in Europe, Asia and beyond,” said the former military leaders in a statement.

“The immense bandwidth and access potential inherent in commercial 5G systems means effective military operations in the future could benefit from military data being pushed over these networks,” they added.

And U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday warned some European countries could soon find themselves cut off from U.S. intelligence and other critical information if they continue to cultivate relationships with Chinese technology firms.

“We’ve done our risk analysis,” Pompeo said, following a NATO ministerial meeting in Washington. “We have now shared that with our NATO partners, with countries all around the world. We’ve made clear that if the risk exceeds the threshold for the United States, we simply won’t be able to share that information any longer.”

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FILE – The logos of Huawei are displayed at it retail shop window reflecting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in Beijing, Jan. 29, 2019. VOA

“Huawei is not a state-owned enterprise. But Huawei is a Chinese company and what we do know is several things. One, broadly speaking, Chinese companies will respond to requests for demands from the Chinese government. Telecommunications is a vital part of national backbones. It has military security implications. It has financial and economic implications,” said Dean Cheng, a senior research fellow of Washington-based Heritage Foundation.

Cheap. Fast. Secure?

Huawei insists that it would not turn information over to Chinese authorities if they demanded it, but few outside analysts believe any Chinese company would stand up the country’s authoritarian government. U.S. officials are even more direct.

“What we do is in our national interests, we see with companies like Huawei that are supported, if not directed, by central authorities in China. We see challenges and potential threats to the sanctity, the security of our systems in our networks, and the best we can do with our friends and partners and allies, is to share our information, share our experience,” Patrick Murphy, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told VOA at a recent seminar at the U.S. Institute of Peace.

That message clearly has had a mixed reception, especially after years when the United States’ vast electronic eavesdropping capabilities have drawn criticism.

Richard Kramer, founder of Arete, a technology research firm based in London, said leaks from U.S. security agencies in recent years have revealed close cooperation between the federal government and U.S. telecoms and tech firms around intelligence gathering. The U.S. position, he said, seems to be: “We don’t want China to spy on us, but we want to be able to spy on them.”

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FILE – Attendees wait in line for a 5G exhibition at the Qualcomm booth during CES 2019 consumer electronics show, at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Jan. 10, 2019. VOA

Will pressure backfire?

Even in countries where there are open political concerns over the growing power of Chinese influence, too much U.S. pressure could backfire, said Anthony Nelson, Director of the East Asia and Pacific practice at the Albright Stonebridge Group, a global business strategy firm.

“Southeast Asian countries that are looking to balance their military relationships with the U.S. and China are not motivated by Washington’s security concerns, with the notable exception of Vietnam,” Nelson said.

ALSO READ: US Multi-Pronged Efforts to Persuade European Allies to Stay Away from Huawei 5G Tech Could Backfire

Vietnam has had tensions with China in recent years over disputed territory and trade issues. Vietnamese Ambassador to the U.S., Ha Kim Ngoc, told VOA that all companies operating in the country need to respect Vietnam’s sovereignty.

“We have one principle: They need to respect our sovereignty, national sovereignty,” said the ambassador at the recent USIP event. (VOA)

Next Story

5G Global Users to Touch 2.8 bn by 2025: Huawei

The Huawei Deputy Chairman said there are 40 5G handsets already in the market, even before any large scale launch of 5G services

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FILE - A woman stands at a Huawei booth featuring 5G technology at the PT Expo in Beijing, China, Sept. 28, 2018. VOA

Chinese telecom major Huawei Technologies on Tuesday raised the market demand projection for 5G services and forecast the figure of 2.8 billion 5G users by 2025 and 58 per cent global coverage by this ultra-fast spectrum based services.

“The 5G subscriber base will touch 2.8 billion by 2025 and 58 per cent of population will be covered by this technology based services. A whopping 6.5 million base stations will be in use for supporting such huge subscriber base by the same time”, Huawei Technologies Deputy Chairman Ken Hu said, delivering the keynote address of the two-day Huawei Global Analysts Summit 2019 here.

He also said that Huawei had made rapid inroads into markets across the world and it already has 40 contracts on 5G, till date, from various countries.

Ken pointed out that 5G has been well accepted, and more quickly, in comparison with ther earlier generation 3G and 4G technologies.

He quoted from report by Huawei which says it took 10 years for 3G-based telecom firms to get 500 million subscribers, and 5 years for 4G service providers to achieve this figure.

However, 5G technology can make it possible for telcos to acquire 500 million users by just three years from now, the Huawei official said.

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A man lights a cigarette outside a Huawei retail shop in Beijing. VOA

Another area where 5G has taken a march over the earlier technologies is that there are four manufacturers currently developing 5G chipsets for fast processing, whereas there were no chipsets for 4G in the initial years of its rollout.

Also Read- Foxconn to Begin Mass Production of iPhones in India

The Huawei Deputy Chairman said there are 40 5G handsets already in the market, even before any large scale launch of 5G services.

The summit is being seen as a Huawei exercise to showcase its 5G technology prowess as operators across the world start buying spectrum in government-controlled auctions to start services during later part of 2019 or in early 2020. (IANS)