The U.K. government announced that Chinese vendor Huawei’s gear will be completely removed from the country’s 5G networks by the end of 2027, following new recommendations by the National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) on the impact of U.S. sanctions against the telecommunications vendor.
The government also confirmed that it will also implement a total ban on the purchase of new Huawei kit for 5G, starting next year.
The decision was made in a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) chaired by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in response to recent U.S. sanctions.
The move represents a complete U-turn for the U.K. government, which had previously allowed Huawei to continue providing equipment to local 5G networks, with certain restrictions. In January, the government said that the Chinese vendor would be banned from supplying equipment to core parts of 5G networks and that it would be allowed to have a minority presence of no more than 35% in the 5G Radio Access Network.
In May of this year, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) of the U.S. Department of Commerce announced plans to restrict Huawei’s ability to use U.S. chipmaking equipment and software to design and manufacture its semiconductors abroad. Huawei was added to the Entity List in May 2019, after the Department of Commerce concluded that the vendor was engaged in activities that were contrary to U.S. national security or foreign policy interests. However, the U.S. government believes that Huawei has continued to use U.S. software and technology to design semiconductors.
U.K. experts reviewed the consequences of the escalated U.S. sanctions and concluded that Huawei 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 we have sufficient confidence in. They found that the new restrictions make it impossible to continue to guarantee the security of Huawei equipment in the future.
The existing restrictions on Huawei in sensitive and critical parts of the network remain in place, the government added.
The U.S. sanctions also affect Huawei products used in the U.K.’s fiber broadband networks. Due to this, the U.K. government is also advising full fiber operators to transition away from purchasing new Huawei equipment. A technical consultation will determine the transition timetable, but U.K. authorities said they expect this period to last no longer than two years.
“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. Following US 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, UK Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said.
“This disappointing decision is 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. Instead of ‘levelling up’ the government is levelling down and we urge them to reconsider. We remain confident that the new US restrictions would not have affected the resilience or security of the products we supply to the UK,” said Ed Brewster, a spokesperson for Huawei UK.
“Regrettably our future in the UK has become politicized, this is about US trade policy and not security. We will conduct a detailed review of what today’s announcement means for our business here and will work with the UK government to explain how we can continue to contribute to a better connected Britain,” Brewster added.