UK to ban installation of 5G Huawei tech from September 2021

30 Nov 2020

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The UK government announced that no more Huawei 5G equipment can be installed in the country from next year as part of efforts to diversify suppliers.

A bill to be presented to the UK parliament will look to enshrine in law a ban on the installation of Huawei 5G equipment from September 2021. The measure is part of an initial £250m plan to create a more diverse supply chain of key telecoms infrastructure in the country.

In July, the UK government said that mobile operators in the country would be banned from buying Huawei’s 5G equipment and that any Huawei technology deployed so far must be removed by 2027. From April 2021, apart from exceptional circumstances, carriers will also be banned from outsourcing service management to Huawei.

‘We are taking bold steps to implement one of the toughest telecoms security regimes in the world’

While the UK gave Huawei the green light to be part of the country’s 5G infrastructure at the start of this year, security concerns continued to mount around the world. In May, the US designated Huawei a national security threat, banning telecoms firms from spending government money on Huawei equipment.

The UK later said that its National Cyber Security Centre had “significantly changed” its security assessment of Huawei’s presence in the 5G network. In response, UK telecoms operators warned that the decision could have a severe effect on national infrastructure.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 in July, 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.”

‘This is a global issue’

The passing of a telecoms security bill would mean UK operators would be largely reliant on Nokia and Ericsson to build their telecoms infrastructure. Aiming not to be left with a duopoly, the UK government said it will create a national telecoms lab to research greater network security and more compatibility with the vendors.

It will also look to fund trials with other network infrastructure providers, such as Japanese company NEC, and potentially phase out older 2G and 3G technology.

Announcing the country’s new 5G supply chain diversification strategy, the UK minister for digital, culture, media and sport, Oliver Dowden, said: “We are taking bold steps to implement one of the toughest telecoms security regimes in the world.

“A central part of that is combating high-risk vendors, and I have set out an unambiguous timetable for the complete removal of Huawei equipment from our 5G networks no later than 2027.

“That decision is the right one, but it also risks leaving us overly reliant on too few suppliers … This is a global issue, and this plan also sets out how we will lead a global coalition to find a lasting and sustainable solution to the problem.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic