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ARM Innovation Hub
30 January, 2020 - 14:26 By Tony Quested

Huawei finesses Cambridge blueprint and toasts UK 5G role

Chinese telecoms and consumer electronics top gun Huawei has submitted revised plans for its proposed Cambridge R & D Centre which can accommodate 350 staff.

The company committed to invest fresh multimillions into Cambridge and the UK long before the Government’s decision to defy the US and finally offer Huawei a slice of Britain’s 5G rollout despite security fears.

Huawei’s original blueprint for the Sawston base – submitted last summer –has been officially withdrawn after detailed talks with planners who were concerned over certain landscaping and visual aspects of the proposed building. The fresh scheme suggests a lower floor level and curved roof.

A public consultation has now been launched by South Cambridgeshire District Council so local people can give their thoughts on the revised plans, which Huawei say would create the equivalent of 350 new full-time jobs. The consultation runs until February 22.

Huawei has been working with the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service, a partnership between South Cambridgeshire District and Cambridge City Councils, on a revised set of proposals. 

The revised proposals confirm that at least 10 per cent of emissions from the development would be offset by renewable or low-carbon energy sources. Solar panels would generate electricity for the building while heating and hot water would be provided by renewable means.

The development avoids the adjacent woodland which is protected as a biodiversity priority habitat and offers potential homes for bats, nesting birds and dormice. New grassland would also be created to the west of the existing woodland, utilising soil from the site. The new blueprint includes around 50,000 square metres of research and development space along with approximately 9,500 square metres of office space. 

Research and development in the field of photonics – which involves the use of lasers, optics, fibre-optics and electro-optical devices across a range of technologies such as data communications – would be carried out at the new facility. New footpaths, cycleways and roads are also planned as part of the development.

Britain’s decision to cut Huawei in on non-sensitive areas of its 5G deployment was announced by Boris Johnson and Nicky Morgan.

Morgan said: “This is a UK-specific solution for UK-specific reasons and the decision deals with the challenges we face right now. It not only paves the way for secure and resilient networks, with our sovereignty over data protected, but also it builds on our strategy to develop a diversity of suppliers.” 

Huawei will be kept distant from core elements of the deployment, including data sensitive locations such as nuclear sites and military bases. Britain says it can manage security issues raised by the US and others.

White House officials are fuming at Huawei’s inclusion in Britain’s 5G deployment and could exclude the UK from its own security and intelligence think tanks.

Under the UK rules no single high-risk vendor will be allowed to exceed a 35 per cent market share of the network.

Victor Zhang, Huawei’s vice president, commented: “Huawei is reassured by the UK government’s confirmation that we can continue working with our customers to keep the 5G rollout on track. This evidence-based decision will result in a more advanced, more secure and more cost-effective telecoms infrastructure that is fit for the future.”

Huawei is the largest provider of equipment to build systems based on fifth-generation wireless technology – regarded as critical infrastructure in an increasingly digitised global economy. 

The networks will provide significantly quicker download speeds and pave the way for new commercial applications in industries such as transportation, manufacturing and healthcare.

Russia has already chosen Huawei for its own 5G strategy while Germany and France may well follow the UK’s lead.

Arm, which is barred from working with its Huawei group partner in the States because of US trade sanctions against certain Chinese tech enterprises, said it had no comment to make on the situation. CEO Simon Segars had previously said that Huawei’s expertise was crucial to the UK and Europe’s dreams of achieving 5G competitiveness with all the economic benefits that would entail.

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