UK's reliance on two 5G providers a "security risk"

MPs urge the government to learn from the Huawei debacle to be more proactive with emerging technologies

MPs have warned the government to be proactive with legislation on emerging technologies and learn from its failings with 5G.

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee released a report on Wednesday highlighting the UK's dependence on just two 5G vendors, which it claims, poses a risk to national security. 

While the government did eventually act on expert security advice and ban Huawei from the country's 5G network infrastructure, the legislation took so long that it left the UK with just Ericsson and Nokia as 5G partners. 

Worse, its 5G supply chain diversification strategy has come too late and will take years to achieve any success, according to MP Greg Clark, who is the committee's chair. 

"A lack of strategic foresight in 5G has seen the UK become dependent on only two vendors for a crucial technology," Clark said. "We must learn from this experience to avoid making our economy and security vulnerable from a lack of acceptable alternatives in emerging technologies." 

Clark cites advancements in artificial intelligence and quantum computing as examples of emerging technologies that, like 5G, can be potential threats to personal and national security. He is calling for a clear, proactive strategy to avoid a similar situation to the Huawei saga. 

"While the Committee welcomes the government's 5G diversification strategy, it has come too late and contains little by way of detail," Clark added. "The government needs to take an activist approach to encourage research and development, and must now co-operate internationally to build common regulatory approaches with like-minded nations."

The main concern is that these technologies develop at a faster rate than almost anything that has come before them. The committee feels that time is being lost and that the government needs to lay out a strategy in the form of a whitepaper so it can avoid a future economy that is dependent on a small subset of suppliers - or even just one. 

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