LONDON, UK - Britain's Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden has told the House of Commons that by the time of the next election the government will have implemented in law an irreversible path for the complete removal of Huawei equipment from country's 5G networks.
Huawei will be completely removed from the UK's 5G networks by the end of 2027, the secretary announced. The decision he said follows new advice produced by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) on the impact of U.S. sanctions against the telecommunications vendor.
Ahead of this there will be a total ban on the purchase of any new 5G kit after 31 December this year.
The decision was taken in a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) chaired by Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, called after, and in response to, new U.S. sanctions. The sanctions were imposed on Huawei in May, after the UK's initial decision on high risk vendors, and are the first of their kind removing the firm's access to products which have been built based on U.S. semiconductor technology.
Technical experts at the NCSC reviewed the consequences of the sanctions and concluded the company will need to do a major reconfiguration of its supply chain as it will no longer have access to the technology on which it currently relies and there are no alternatives which Dowden said the government has sufficient confidence in. They found the new restrictions make it impossible to continue to guarantee the security of Huawei equipment in the future, he said.
As a result, the UK government said ministers on Tuesday agreed that UK operators should stop the purchase of Huawei equipment affected by the sanctions. There will be a ban on the purchase of new Huawei kit for 5G from next year and it will be completely removed from 5G networks by the end of 2027.
The decision, the British government says, takes into account the specific national circumstances and how the risks from these sanctions are manifested in the UK.
The existing restrictions on Huawei in sensitive and critical parts of the network remain in place, the government said.
The US action also affects Huawei products used in the UK's full fibre broadband networks. However, the UK has managed Huawei's presence in the UK's fixed access networks since 2005 and it says it needs to avoid a situation where broadband operators are reliant on a single supplier for their equipment. As a result, following security advice from world leading experts, the UK government says it is advising full fibre operators to transition away from purchasing new Huawei equipment.
"5G will be transformative for our country, but only if we have confidence in the security and resilience of the infrastructure it is built upon," Britain's Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said Tuesday .
"Following U.S. sanctions against Huawei and updated technical advice from our cyber experts, the government has decided it is necessary to ban Huawei from our 5G networks.
"No new kit is to be added from January 2021, and UK 5G networks will be Huawei free by the end of 2027. This decisive move provides the industry with the clarity and certainty it needs to get on with delivering 5G across the UK," the digital secretary said.
"By the time of the next election we will have implemented in law an irreversible path for the complete removal of Huawei equipment from our 5G networks."
"The government will now seek to legislate at the earliest opportunity with a new Telecoms Security Bill to put in place the powers necessary to implement this tough new telecoms security framework," Dowden said.
"It will give the government the national security powers to impose these new controls on high risk vendors and create extensive security duties on network operators to drive up standards."
Huawei said it was disappointed, and noted the issue with his company was no longer related to trade, but had become political.
"It threatens to move Britain into the digital slow lane, push up bills and deepen the digital divide," Ed Brewster, the spokesperson for Huawei UK said Tuesday. "Regrettably our future in the UK has become politicized, this is about U.S. trade policy and not security."
Vodaphone also expressed disappointment over the decision as it will effectively fdelay the rollout of the 5G networks in Britain by around a year.
"Obviously we are disappointed because this decision, as the government has highlighted today, will add delay to the roll out of 5G in the UK and will result in additional costs for the industry," a Vodafone spokesperson said Tuesday.