The British government has confirmed that it will ban Huawei products from its 5G networks, citing national security concerns. As part of this arrangement, starting from 2021 telecommunications companies will be prohibited from purchasing new 5G products of the Chinese tech giant. Operators will also be forced to remove all Huawei equipment from their existing infrastructure by 2027, with the government intending to advise them not to use Huawei gear in fibre networks.
Back in January, the UK made the decision to exclude high-risk vendors from sensitive and critical parts of its 5G networks, as well as restrict the access of risky suppliers to other parts of the networks. As Huawei has been under close scrutiny in the UK for several years, the company was expected to fall under the scope of high-risk vendors.
In May, the US tightened its restrictions against Huawei, as a result of which the tech giant has limited access to US technology and software in the process of designing and manufacturing its products. The National Cyber Security Centre (NSCS) closely examined the impact of these restrictions on the UK and issued new technical advice for the British government, stating that it is impossible to guarantee the security of Huawei equipment.
Huawei criticized the UK government’s decision, claiming that it would drive up bills and lead to an increase in the digital divide across the country. The Chinese tech giant also expressed its opinion that the new US restrictions were not going to affect the security of Huawei equipment in the UK and that the government’s decision was dictated by political reasons.
Oliver Dowden, the digital secretary, announced the decision in parliament, confirming that the current restrictions on Huawei regarding sensitive and critical parts of the network shall remain in force. In addition to this, the British government will also advise fibre network operators to phase out new Huawei gear. According to the secretary, the full transition period is expected to take no longer than two years, subject to a technical consultation.
The government believes that this decision will preserve national security while ensuring that a sufficient network infrastructure is in place. In order to implement these proposals, legislation must still be passed. The digital secretary said that a Telecoms Security Bill is expected to be introduced this autumn and passed into law before the next general election, making purchasing Huawei 5G equipment illegal for all UK operators.
However, the UK’s decision to ban Huawei equipment from its 5G networks will delay the rollout by around a year and increase the bill by up to GBP 500 million. Forcing operators to remove Huawei products from their infrastructure by 2027 will push up the costs by an additional GBP 2 billion and extend the delay in rolling out 5G networks to 2-3 years.
This legislation is also expected to facilitate the development of a national policy that will encourage local development of non-risky suppliers. According to Dowden, the end goal is making multi-vendor networks the industry standard.