back to article After banning Chinese comms bogeyman, UK asks: Huawei in this mess? It was a failure of capitalism, MPs told

Excising Huawei from the UK's 5G networks promises to be an expensive task that has ramifications for the nationwide rollout of 5G. Following the ban of the firm's gear in the nation's 5G deployment, the government is doing some soul-searching to find out how it became so dependent on one particular vendor. One cause, MPs …

  1. Rich 2 Silver badge

    Obvious

    Can’t comment on Canada and the US but here in the UK we have a strong tradition of treating industry as something you scrape off your shoe.

    Thatcher very famously stated “we don’t need a manufacturing sector. The country can survive on service industries alone” (I paraphrase).

    And so 30 years or so later you end up in a situation where you have lost almost all your top talent, and the manufacturing companies that are still trying to make something of worth are unsupported by government and ignored by the banks (now THERE’s a worthwhile “industry” - very nice suits and shiny boardroom tables, and none of that demeaning “manufacturing” nonsense).

    On top of that we allow any industry of any worth at all to be sold to (literally) anyone - Arm probably being the latest high profile example. But that should come as no surprise - we don’t even own our own water supply any more in this country (and allow said water companies to run up huge debts just so they can pay out a nice dividend to shareholders and pay their “top” peeps big money - it is quite literally a scandal but that’s another subject)

    In the meantime we happily POUR money into China so that it can make stuff for us and fund its military that it might want to use against us in the near future.

    Really. It’s not rocket science. It’s bloody depressing. But it’s not complicated

    1. Zog_but_not_the_first
      Devil

      Re: Obvious

      Why bother doing anything else when you can launder criminals' money?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Obvious

      The UK manufacturing sector

      employs 2.7 million people – earning an average of £32,500

      contributes 11% of GVA

      accounts for 45% of total exports – totalling £275bn

      represents 69% of business research and development (R&D)

      provides 13% of business investment

      1. SWCD

        Re: Obvious

        What percentage of all that is done for British owned companies, if you have the figures?

      2. Rich 2 Silver badge

        Re: Obvious

        2.7 million people isn’t that many for a country of 60 million

        1. The Original Steve

          Re: Obvious

          "2.7 million people isn’t that many for a country of 60 million"

          It's 8.18% of the workforce based according to the ONS.

          Source: https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/bulletins/uklabourmarket/march2020#employment

          1. Rich 2 Silver badge

            Re: Obvious

            Exactly. Not that much is it?

    3. StickThatInYourPieHole

      Re: Obvious

      How dare they fund their military!

      Unless you have some inside info, i'm not foreseeing any of their military on these shores. Britain has however in the past used it's military in China.

      1. Youngone Silver badge

        Re: Obvious

        How dare they fund their military!

        It's part of the (US led) China scaremongering, which is partly to distract the voters from the Trump regime's mismanagement, and partly because the US needs enemies and has run out of them in the Middle East.

        That is not to say China are the good guys, but they're doing nothing differently now than they have been for the last 20 years or so.

        1. Glen 1 Silver badge

          Re: Obvious

          It was either going to be China or Iran.

        2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          The USA hasn't run out of enemies in the middle East. It has run out of enemies that are easy to roll over and control.

          Especially since the ones it has rolled over it does not control.

          So it's not a cost-effective invasion area.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            It doesn't owe billions to trillions to any of the middle east countries, take a look at who owns the vast majority of US debt, a war with them, where they can decide to wipe the slate clean, would be very good for their bank balance..

    4. Big Softie

      Re: Obvious

      Spot on...

    5. Adair Silver badge

      Re: Obvious

      Because the 'free market' is a fucking lie! The 'free market' is a ploy to allow the money grubbers a fig leaf to cover up their money grubbing ways.

      'Markets' are ALWAYS regulated, whether it's by a friendly beating behind the pub - "Nothing personal, just business" - or 'Health & Safety' regs, or taxation - ALL markets are regulated.

      The questions are: by who, and to what end?

      The 'Free Market'(TM) is a gigantic con, enabled to ensure the money keeps flowing in the approved direction of those who already have more than they need. Everything and everyone else is just collateral damage.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Obvious

        The 'Free Market'(TM) is a gigantic con

        The free market (as such) can't really exist. Either you have a regulated market of some kind in order to attempt to stem rampant criminality or abuse of market position or you have a free-for-all where one company will inevitably win and kill off all the competitors and proceed to form a monopoly to ensure that none of it's competitors can ever overtake it. And any proto-competitors will get swallowed up or forced out of business.

        None of todays market is devoid of covert or overt state aid - the Chinese manufacturing sector got so big because of support from the government and the West's rampant desire to pay less and less for more and more. If we concentrate on *only* the price as a determinant of what we buy then we are propping up regiemes that we don't like. Unfortunately, after decades of wrecking our hi-tech and technology companies, sometimes we don't have a choice.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Obvious

      My first job was in manufacturing - place employed around 1800 people, raw materials in, high value finished products out, with some going to export markets. Not long after I left, the place was shutdown as the manufacturing was dispersed offshore.

      Not far from this place was an computer manufacturing plant - that too went offshore, and the other manufacturing plant I knew of from the same company was raised to the ground, after that division was sold off(shore)

      And then the "services" jobs started going offshore. And right now, myself and some other old techies will be leaving in a few weeks - our jobs - guess where/guess which rent-a-crowd we've been "Knowledge Transferring" to. But, due to the culture, the onshore management have been kept in the dark about the readiness of some of them to take over - I think the customer is on for a rough ride shortly. Covid-19 was actually quite smooth - in fact the slowdown helped as the workload reduced. With the loss of the old hands who were helping to keep the place ticking over, the customer may end up pulling the plug sooner rather than later. What goes round comes round

  2. Richard Jones 1
    FAIL

    Devided Opinions Anyone

    Not for nothing did the UK company I worked for have a 'mixed' opinion of Nortel. My area referred to them as the granny shifters who would sell you their granny if they could make a buck, but they generally had nothing useful to deliver. Even offering to sell items that they would buy in from other makers, (who told us they had no interest in making a loss to produce those devices). Other parts of the company loved their older kit, though Nortel did not always know how to make it all work reliably in field situations. GEC/ Marconi was not respected, often referred to as a bunch of old has-beens by one group. I thought that some of their offerings might have had more to them than they were given credit.

    1. Rich 2 Silver badge

      Re: Devided Opinions Anyone

      For many years, GEC and Marconi were populated at the top by useless ex-army colonels or some bloody lord Farquhar and the like and it was perpetuated when they retired on lovely pensions. It was nepotism personified.

      BAe is exactly the same but somehow managed to hang in there. Of course when I say “somehow” I mean the same ex-army top bods have lots of friends in government. Which happens to come in very handy when some low life tries to expose the open secret of bribing the Saudis. Now that was rather inconvenient. Good job the government decided it “wasn’t in the National interest” to actually admit publicly what anyone working in that area had known openly for decades; they even used to figure bribes into the project budget (not a joke. Not made up).

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Devided Opinions Anyone

        Well if the MoD isn't allowed to buy weapons from anybody but BAe then the competitive pressure to be any good is somewhat reduced.

        Fortunately we have learnt from this and are now forcing all our telcos to only buy from Ericson

    2. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: Devided Opinions Anyone

      The Nortel Meridans were bloody rock solid. Only had to do a hard boot on an Option 81 after 15 years. Despite cards being fried by lighting strikes, multiple card failures (hot swapping was no problem) and upgrades. Was running SIP almost a decade before it caught on with most other providers.

      Show me something else in Tech that reliable.

    3. Julz Silver badge

      Re: Devided Opinions Anyone

      Ask anybody who worked for ICL how great Nortel was after their great pension grab.

  3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Failure of capitalism

    So our cell network should use systems designed and built in Britain, manufactured in Britain, using components from Britain, built from raw materials from Britain, mined by British workers using British built mining gear.

    That sounds very much like a different ...ism

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Failure of capitalism

      >>That sounds very much like a different ...ism

      Delusionism?

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Failure of capitalism

      No, your cell network should use systems designed in the USA, compromised by the NSA, and reporting everything to the White House.

      There. Feel better about it now ?

  4. JetSetJim Silver badge

    Cisco was the last US RAN supplier?

    You what? Apart from their acquisition of Ubiquisis, a small cell manufacturer, they were never in the business. Motorola was the last US vendor with any merit, and they were out manoeuvred by Huawei, playing second fiddle to them at the end when the remnants were picked up by NSN

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge

      ESN

      I have to also wonder what impact this will have on any support from Huawei in their build of the emergency services network with EE. While it's only 4g at the moment, at some point some bright spark in the home office is going to want to add 5g to police cars, and if this policy is still in place the cost to the tax payer has just doubled

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: ESN

        What's another billion or two?

        The difference in cost between Huawei and Ericsson/Nokia/Samsung will be a fraction of the cost overruns when it finally delivers the coverage it was supposed to.

        1. JetSetJim Silver badge

          Re: ESN

          You missed the point - all the costs of overruns will double, too

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: ESN

            I'd disagree I'm missing the point.

            Currently ESN sits at about £3bn of overruns on a £6bn project but the project supposedly depends on vehicle -based repeaters to address coverage issues that have yet to be successfully field tested and more realistically depends on a significant increase in RANs to improve coverage to Airwave-like levels.

            I suspect we will get a final cost when it is a usable replacement for Airwave (coverage-wise) of around £12bn-£15bn of which the RAN cost will be a significant part. Using Huawei might have allowed £1-1.5bn in savings amongst that between initial purchase and replacing operational equipment but then again attempting to deliver a usable solution wold have likely saved that by avoiding the current (and I expect) future extensions to the existing Airwave contract.

            But maybe I'm just a pessamist...

            1. EnviableOne Silver badge

              Re: ESN

              Or we could keep using airwave which works, has a seperate secure network and is infact reliable.

              wheras I'm not convinced an ESN based on OTS GSM and consumer networks will ever be able to meet the uptime and resillience requirements of the CNI that an ESN should meet.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: ESN

                "Or we could keep using airwave which works, has a seperate secure network and is infact reliable."

                Which is likely to be even more expensive as the suppliers no longer make the products any more and manufacturing has been re-purposed to newer produt lines that are profitable. Hence the significant cost rises in extending Airwave each time they miss an operational deadline.

  5. rcxb Silver badge

    What about demand?

    The failure of capitalism is on the other end.

    Why isn't it profitable to make? Because everyone buys the cheapest equipment available, which is always Hawuei, and nobody spends a few extra pounds on home-made kit (with hundreds fewer bugs/exploits).

    Why would you expect companies to make kit they know they will have to give away at a loss?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What about demand?

      Hundreds fewer *identified* bugs perhaps. If you take any commercial kit and run it past GCHQ you'll get much the same answer. But only Huawei are required to do that.

    2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: What about demand?

      This is capitalism working fine.

      Somebody wanted market share ( Huawei ) so they sold their products at below cost. Lovely for us consumers. The Chinese army paying for our 5G. Because of this, nobody else bothered because why compete with below cost?

      The problem wasn't with capitalism. The problem was in government trade policy. Do we want to buy this from the Chinese government?

      The answer was yes, fine. If the answer was no, competitors would have sprung up who wouldn't have to compete with Huawei.

  6. HildyJ Silver badge
    Facepalm

    It is capitalism

    Huawei is capitalism personified. Like Henry Ford with the Model-T, they realized making a better product than the competition and selling it for a lower price is how you corner the market.

    The failure of competitors to respond is due to capitalism in many western countries becoming focused on the short rather than the long term.

    For the record, I don't see a fix. We made our bed and now we have to sleep in it. Pleasant dreams.

    1. rcxb Silver badge

      Re: It is capitalism

      The Model-T wasn't better than any other cars, it was just cheaper.

      The same is true of Hawuai... Lots of bugs, but at least it's cheap.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It is capitalism

        Huawei's opposition also have lots of bugs. But as they don't have to be audited by GCHQ, the bugs don't get made public.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: It is capitalism

      "For the record, I don't see a fix."

      The fix would also be long term - to turn boardroom thinking round so that it looks at the long term. That would require changes in financial and taxation regulations. Ban bonuses that don't reflect long term performance or make them more highly taxed. Likewise, hit short term trading in stocks and shares.

  7. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "how it became so dependent on one particular vendor"

    I think the answer to that is obvious : government contracts awarded to the lowest bidder, regardless of quality or security considerations.

    And if you consider capitalism, well it's obvious that the bottom line is of utmost importance. Until the government started making noise about data sovereignty, there was no incentive to pay more to get something that did the same thing than the cheapest option but with data security on top.

    Once again, not designing security in from the beginning costs big bucks when you have to shove it in as an afterthought.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "how it became so dependent on one particular vendor"

      This isn't about data Sovereignty, it's about a president that needs an evil dictator enemy.

      If Huawei was owned by softbank and the Saudis nobody would say a word.

  8. Securitymoose
    Flame

    WTF do we need 5G anyway?

    So the authorities can spy on us and control every movement? So that cities can be automated and therefore a perfect target for terrorism disruption? So that our kids can spend more time with their faces attached to their screens. So we can be under even more restrictions than posed by Coronaphobia?

    I say scrap the whole thing and spend the savings on something useful, like child protection, the hospitals, saving the environment (and a hit squad for anyone leaving litter behind).

  9. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Exporting manufacturing to cheap labour countries has served medium term government policy well. Exclude one cost you can't export - property - from cost of living calculations and you can hold down headline inflation figures. Tie interest rates to that, ignore the housing bubble and create a fool's paradise. It served well until reality intruded.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I see France is effectively banning Huawei, although doing it in a more roundabout way (no re-licencing after 2028). From what I've read, they're not as dependent on them as the UK is, so maybe an easier transition.

  11. codejunky Silver badge

    Ha

    So its a failure of capitalism for people to get what they want at a price they can afford? I guess that would be a view suitable for government. If that is a failure we should be glad these guys aint doing it 'right'.

    If they are so worried about the transmissions being intercepted (an assumption they should make anyway) shouldnt encryption be the standard? Or if we really want to compete with China we need to lower our worker protection laws, remove minimum wage and then import a load of people to do the job nobody wants to (or stay in lockdown until the economy is thoroughly wrecked).

    1. Lyndon Hills 1
      Joke

      Re: Ha

      If they are so worried about the transmissions being intercepted (an assumption they should make anyway) shouldnt encryption be the standard?

      Would that be ordinary encryption, or special, government breakable encryption?

      1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: Ha

        Ordinary for ministers and their mates. The "special" kind for the plebs who can't afford their own minister.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ha

      >shouldnt encryption be the standard

      It is. All the traffic going over Huawei's base stations is encrypted between the handset and the network core. And nobody has broken 5G encryption yet - if & when someone does, it won't matter if you bought your kit from China. Which is why you don't see the technical advisers talking about intercepts - it's only idiot politicians who suggest that is possible.

  12. DanceMan
    Stop

    Huawei

    I don't think the real issue is backdoors, or cost. If you look at the imprisonment of the two Canadians and the Chinese violation of the "two systems" agreement in Hong Kong, the real issue should be handing vital 5T infrastructure to a company with such close ties to a gov't that will not respect agreements or international norms. For that matter the same might be said of Cisco as long as Trump remains in power.

    1. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: Huawei

      I'm fed up with this "close ties to the goverment" bullshit.

      Do you think Lockheed Martin, Boeing, BAE or NASA would exist without such ties?

      It's just utter bollocks

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