UK government brings Huawei 5G ban forward

By Robert Scammell

The UK government has brought forward its Huawei 5G ban to September 2021. From this date, telecommunications firms will no longer be allowed to install new equipment made by the Chinese tech giant.

UK telcos such as EE, Vodafone and Three had previously been working until 2027 to install equipment purchased before the end of 2020.

This had resulted in some firms stockpiling Huawei equipment, which they will now have to deploy on an accelerated timetable if they are to avoid hefty fines. Maintaining old equipment will be allowed.

Huawei told Verdict that it would not be commenting on the development.

Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden outlined the plans in a new roadmap for removing high-risk vendors from the telecoms network.

“This will be done through new and unprecedented powers to identify and ban telecoms equipment which poses a threat to our national security,” he said.

The accelerated timeline comes as the Telecommunications Security Bill goes through its second parliamentary reading. If passed it will be the first step in enshrining the Huawei 5G ban into law.

Under the new law, the government will be able to instruct telecoms companies to not use vendors it deems ‘high risk’, such as Huawei.

Telecoms operators have previously warned that it will be difficult and expensive to remove Huawei equipment from their networks by 2027. In July, BT CEO Philip Jansen said it would be “impossible” to strip out equipment by 2030.

In July the UK government U-turned on a decision to allow Huawei into the non-core parts of country’s 5G network, citing security concerns.

Huawei has strongly denied that poses a security risk and that its equipment would allow the Chinese state to spy on UK citizens

The Huawei bab followed a sustained period of US lobbying and pressure from backbench Conservative MPs. The Trump administration also applied sanctions against Huawei that the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said would make the Chinese firm’s equipment less reliable.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport today published a guidance document outlining the need to attract new suppliers to the UK market, as well as support incumbent suppliers such as Nokia and Ericsson in the “near term”.

Another strategy being pursued is openRAN, where open standards allow telecoms suppliers to use components from multiple vendors.

The government is aiming to bring in more telecoms providers into the UK’s network as part of a 5G supply chain diversification strategy.

Read more: Huawei sells Honor brand due to “tremendous pressure” from US sanctions