Huawei 5G Kits Banned From UK, Nationwide Removal by 2027
Mobile providers in the U.K. will no longer be allowed to purchase new Huawei 5G equipment after December 31, 2020, and they are required to remove all of the Chinese firm's 5G kits from U.K. networks by 2027, according to a statement to the House of Commons from Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden.
Huawei 5G equipment banned 2021
The decision from the U.K. Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden comes on the heels of repeated sanctions on Huawei from the U.S. government, which alleges the Chinese firm represents a national security threat to Washington. Huawei denies these claims.
Dowden added that the move to ban Huawei 5G will delay the U.K.'s 5G rollout by roughly one year. Additionally, the cumulative cost of this and previous restrictions set against Huawei earlier in 2020 are estimated at roughly $2.5 billion (£2 billion), according to Dowden.
"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 Dowden, reports BBC News.
UPDATE July 14, 1:03 PM EDT: Huawei speaks on UK ban
Huawei's reaction to the news was disapproving: "Bad news for anyone in the UK with a mobile phone." The Chinese firm then said the U.K.'s move would "move Britain into the digital slow lane, push up bills and deepen the digital divide."
The new restrictions from the U.K. will also apply to the use of Huawei's broadband kit.
Additionally, the U.K. government has advised operators to "transition away" from buying new Huawei equipment for use in full-fiber networks — possibly within a two-year timeframe, BBC News reports. Dowden added the government aims to "embark on a short technical consultation" with operators on the matter.
He added that the U.K. needs to beware of becoming too dependent on Nokia as the singular supplier of crucial equipment, and wants to avoid "unnecessary delays" to the U.K's gigabit-for-all by 2025 pledge.
However, this government action won't change Huawei's ability to sell smartphones to consumers, or how its smartphones will work.
UPDATE July 14, 1:20 PM EDT: Chip worries
The U.K. previously reviewed Huawei's role in telecoms infrastructure in January, when the country decided to allow the Chinese firm to stay a supplier but implemented a cap on its market share.
However, the U.S. imposed new sanctions on Huawei in a bid to disrupt Huawei's ability to manufacture its own chips.
This convinced security officials that they couldn't assure the security of its products if the company began outsourcing chip manufacturing to third-parties for use in its equipment.
The action was justified via a review from the GCHQ's National Cyber Security Center.
"Huawei claims to have stockpiles of parts that they can use, but this obviously affects what the NCSC can say about their products going forward," wrote the agency's technical director Ian Levy. "We think that Huawei products that are adapted to cope with the [sanctions] are likely to suffer more security and reliability problems because of the massive engineering challenge ahead of them, and it will be harder for us to be confident in their use within our mitigation strategy."
UPDATE July 14, 1:36 PM EDT: Tensions with China amid 5G rollout
However, there are other relevant political considerations at play, according to BBC News. The U.K. aims to strike a trade deal with the U.S. amid rising tensions with China in light of its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, and its response to the Hong Kong protests of 2019.
Several backbench Tory MPs had pushed for a shorter timeline for removal of Huawei products — specifically about calls for the 5G ban to go live before the next election in May 2024. But Dowden dissented, saying: "the shorter we make the timetable for removal, the greater the risk of actual disruption to mobile phone networks."
As the world's most technologically advanced nations move into full 5G rollout, it's interesting to note that where technology changes, political tensions — whether between companies vying for market share, or national security concerns — are often most apparent.