The UK Government has completely caved in to pressure from the US administration and backbench Tory MP’s and has ordered telecoms companies to remove all Huawei equipment from the UK’s 5G networks by 2027.
UK’s mobile providers will also be banned from buying new Huawei 5G equipment after the end of this year, in a move that is expected to delay the further rollout of 5G by a year.
“This has not been an easy decision, but it is the right one for the UK telecoms networks, for our national security and our economy, both now and indeed in the long run,” said Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden.
“5G will be transformative for our country, but only if we have confidence in the security and resilience of the infrastructure it is built upon.”
Operators will be required to “transition away” from buying new Huawei equipment for use in the full-fibre network over the next two years.
The announcement follows a review conducted by the National Security Council into a report of upcoming US sanctions on the Chinese telecoms company.
The report concluded that the new US sanctions, set to be introduced in September, risk causing gaps in supplies of vital components from Huawei.
Dowden, said that the NCSC had warned that the new US sanctions “significantly changed their security assessment of Huawei’s presence in 5G.”
“Following U.S. sanctions against Huawei and updated technical advice from our cyber experts, the government has decided it is necessary to ban Huawei from our 5G networks.”
“No new kit is to be added from January 2021, and UK 5G networks will be Huawei free by the end of 2027. This decisive move provides the industry with the clarity and certainty it needs to get on with delivering 5G across the UK.”
“We are already working with all our Five Eyes partners on those alternatives,” Dowden told parliament, referring to cooperation between the group of allies comprising the U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
“The first thing we need to do is ensure that we protect the other two vendors in this market so Nokia, and Ericsson. Secondly we need to get new suppliers in, that starts with Samsung, and it starts with NEC,”
The decision marks a major U-turn by the Government. In January, ministers announced Huawei could play a limited role in the 5G network, despite warnings that its equipment could be used by China for espionage or to disrupt the UK’s critical national infrastructure.
Donald Trump’s administration has accused Huawei of having a close relationship with the Chinese government and army, which it has warned could mean that its equipment is co-opted for espionage purposes.
Huawei executives have consistently denied these unsubstantiated claims and offered to sign “no-spy” agreements with governments around the world.
Ed Brewster, a spokesperson for Huawei UK said:
This disappointing decision is bad news for anyone in the UK with a mobile phone. It threatens to move Britain into the digital slow lane, push up bills and deepen the digital divide.
Instead of ‘levelling up’ the government is levelling down and we urge them to reconsider. We remain confident that the new US restrictions would not have affected the resilience or security of the products we supply to the UK.
Regrettably our future in the UK has become politicized, this is about US trade policy and not security. Over the past 20 years, Huawei has focused on building a better connected UK. As a responsible business, we will continue to support our customers as we have always done.
We will conduct a detailed review of what today’s announcement means for our business here and will work with the UK government to explain how we can continue to contribute to a better connected Britain.
Today’s announcement will trigger a years-long national effort to remove functioning 4G and 5G equipment built by Huawei. BT and Vodafone have warned that removal of the Huawei equipment could cause signal blackouts as well as delays to the continued roll-out of 5G across the country.
Telecoms companies are set to lobby the Government for a compensation package which may include financial compensation for removing Huawei equipment, as well as other benefits including reduced prices in Ofcom’s upcoming spectrum auction and cheaper annual licence fees for their use of the country’s 5G spectrum.
A BT spokesperson said:
We note the government’s announcement today relating to the use of Huawei equipment in the UK. The security and resilience of our networks is an absolute priority for BT.
While we have prepared for a range of scenarios, we need to further analyse the details and implications of this decision before taking a view of potential costs and impacts.