Huawei claims 5G ban is ‘bad news for anyone in UK with a mobile phone’

14 Jul 2020

Huawei UK’s R&D centre in London. Image: © William/

UK mobile operators will not be allowed to buy Huawei’s 5G technology from 31 December, much to the chagrin of the Chinese telecoms giant.

Details on a much anticipated set of restrictions against Huawei in the UK have been announced by the country’s digital secretary, Oliver Dowden. In a statement to the House of Commons, the minister said that the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has “significantly changed” its security assessment of Huawei’s presence in the UK 5G network since the green light was given in January.

The new restrictions mean that mobile operators in the UK will be banned from buying Huawei’s 5G equipment from 31 December this year and that any of the company’s technology deployed so far must be removed by 2027. Dowden admitted this will be a significant setback for the UK’s 5G roll-out and that the planned Telecoms Security Bill will have established an “irreversible path” for the complete removal of Huawei’s 5G equipment.

“We have not taken this decision lightly. And I must be frank that this decision will have consequences for every constituency in the country,” he said.

“This will delay our 5G roll-out. Our decisions in January had already set back that roll-out by a year and cost up to £1bn.”

‘Bad news for anyone with a mobile phone’

Huawei UK spokesperson Ed Brewster was highly critical of the decision, saying it will be “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,” he said. “Regrettably, our future in the UK has become politicised; this is about US trade policy and not security.”

It was also revealed today (14 July) that Huawei Technologies’ UK chair, former BP CEO John Browne, is to step down in September after five years in the role. His term was supposed to expire in March next year.

The UK’s decision comes after the US government in May designated Huawei a national security threat, banning US telecoms firms from spending government money on Huawei equipment. UK telecoms operators have warned that the latest decision could have a severe effect on national infrastructure.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 yesterday, BT CEO Philip Jansen said: “Over the next five years, we’d expect 15 to 20 big software upgrades.

“If you don’t have those you’re running gaps in critical software that could have security implications far bigger than anything we’re talking about in terms of managing a 35pc cap in the access network of a mobile operator.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic