The British government is now warning wireless carriers in the country against using networking equipment from Chinese tech giant ZTE, Financial Times reports, citing a letter sent to domestic telecoms by Ian Levy, the National Cyber Security Centre’s Technical Director. The communication that was also addressed to the United Kingdom’s telecom authority Ofcom and ZTE itself claims the Chinese firm’s hardware is a “risk to UK national security” and shouldn’t be utilized in the context of any infrastructural deployments. While the move is similar to the one Washington recently made as part of its efforts to put a stop to ZTE’s stateside ambitions in the wireless segment, it comes shortly after another Chinese company and ZTE’s rival Huawei pledged to invest over $4 billion in the UK after already pumping nearly $3 billion in the country.
Huawei and ZTE have largely received the same treatment from Washington in regards to their ambitions to do large-scale business in the U.S., yet the British government appears to only be concerned with the smaller company and one that’s directly owned by Beijing, partially because Huawei is already entrenched in its infrastructure. ZTE has a relatively minor presence in the British wireless industry, with its only major project in the segment being a broad R&D collaboration with telecom giant BT. Mr. Levy attributed the new warning against ZTE to a number of recently introduced Chinese laws that provide Beijing with “wide-ranging powers of compulsion” when it comes to forcing companies to do its bidding such as spying on users. The letter acknowledges the UK’s current reliance on Huawei-made wireless technologies but reveals that the government already has policies and solutions in place meant to mitigate the risk of foreign interference with its critical networks.
The Government Communications Headquarters presently has a special unit solely dedicated to monitoring Huawei’s hardware used by the European country. Huawei has been saying its widely reported ties to Beijing have been partially fabricated and largely overblown for over a decade now. ZTE still hasn’t commented on the new development in any capacity, with the company also receiving another major blow to its business earlier today after the U.S. Commerce Department forbade American companies from supplying it with any kind of components due to the firm’s failure to comply with a 2017 settlement over its violations of U.S. trade sanctions imposed on Iran which also included an $890 million fine.