Huawei to be completely removed from UK’s 5G networks

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Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei will be completely removed from the UK’s 5G networks by the end of 2027, the UK government announced this afternoon.

It says the announcement follows new advice produced by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) on the impact of US sanctions against the telecommunications vendor.

The dramatic U-turn by the UK government comes six months after the government allowed the Chinese company to play a limited role in the UK's 5G network.

However, the UK had been under pressure from the Trump administration to completely ditch Huawei, which it accuses of being a national security threat because of its close ties with the Chinese government.

However, Huawei has vehemently denied these accusations.

US sanctions response

In a statement, the UK government says ahead of 2027, there will be a total ban on the purchase of any new 5G kit after 31 December 2020.

It says the decision was taken today in a meeting of the National Security Council chaired by the prime minister, Boris Johnson, in response to new US sanctions.

These 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 US semiconductor technology.

It adds that 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 the UK has sufficient confidence in.

According to the statement, the experts found the new restrictions make it impossible to continue to guarantee the security of Huawei equipment in the future.

“As a result, ministers today 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 statement reads.

“The decision takes into account our 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, says the UK government.

Fibre broadband networks

It adds that the US action also affects Huawei products used in the UK’s full fibre broadband networks.

The statement notes: “However, the UK has managed Huawei’s presence in the UK’s fixed access networks since 2005 and we also need to avoid a situation where broadband operators are reliant on a single supplier for their equipment.

“As a result, following security advice from our world leading experts, we are advising full fibre operators to transition away from purchasing new Huawei equipment. A technical consultation will determine the transition timetable, but we expect this period to last no longer than two years.”

UK’s digital secretary Oliver Dowden, says: 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. 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.

“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.

“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.

“This approach strikes the right balance by recognising full fibre’s established presence and supporting the connections that the public relies on, while fully addressing the security concerns of our world leading experts,” Dowden says.

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