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5G rollout may face delay in UK over Huawei probe

Government official says security shouldn't be sacrificed in favor of faster wireless speeds.

Jaap Arriens/Getty Images

The UK deployment of wireless 5G services may be delayed if it places restrictions on embattled Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, a government official warned Wednesday.

"There's certainly a possibility of a delay in the process of the rollout of 5G," Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said in response to questions during a parliamentary committee, according to a Bloomberg account of the meeting. "If you want to do 5G fastest, you do it without any consideration of security. We're not prepared to do that, so I don't exclude the possibility there will be some delay."

Huawei has been a front-runner for developing 5G infrastructure at this crucial early stage of the evolution of the technology. But the company comes with a security warning -- including from the British government. 

British Prime Minister Theresa May has reportedly agreed to let the scandal-scarred Chinese telecommunications giant work on "noncore" parts of the infrastructure.

In February, the GCHQ's chief criticized Huawei over security threats it poses from the Chinese government. The US has continually warned its allies about security concerns with Huawei, and the company was banned for 5G by the Australian government last August. The concerns involve potential Chinese government interference with 5G infrastructure built by Huawei.

5G has long been touted as a game-changing technology, with the ability to dramatically boost the speed, coverage and responsiveness of wireless networks. It can run between 10 and 100 times faster than your typical cellular connection today. It's quicker than anything you can get from a physical fiber-optic cable going into your house. And latency, that is, stuttering or delay in the signal, is lower than what Wi-Fi provides.

After years of work on 5G networks, the super-fast wireless technology is being rolled out across the globe. Carriers are turning on their networks, and virtually every major Android phone maker has touted plans to launch a 5G device this year.