Government bans Chinese tech giant from UK’s 5G network

PA
PA

The Government has announced plans to remove and ban Chinese tech giant Huawei from the UK’s 5G network.

Ministers have agreed to prohibit telecoms firms from purchasing any new 5G Huawei equipment from the start of next year.

The Government will also remove all Huawei equipment from 5G networks by 2027.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden admitted that the ban will delay the network’s roll-out by a “further year” and add up to “half a billion pounds” to costs.

But he told the Commons that the UK can no longer be confident in guaranteeing the security of future Huawei 5G equipment.

It comes after Washington imposed sanctions on the firm, claiming it poses a national security threat – something Huawei denies.

The Chinese tech firm hit back by accusing the UK Government of making a “politicised” decision about US trade policy and not security. The announcement is also expected to increase tensions with Beijing.

Oliver Dowden makes a statement to MPs in the House of Commons (House of Commons/PA Wire)
Oliver Dowden makes a statement to MPs in the House of Commons (House of Commons/PA Wire)

Mr Dowden said: “The best way to secure our networks is for operators to stop using new affected Huawei equipment to build the UK’s future 5G networks.

“So to be clear, from the end of this year, telecoms operators must not buy any 5G equipment from Huawei and once the telecoms security Bill is passed, it will be illegal for them to do so.”

The Secretary of State said the delay could incur costs of up to £2 billion, adding: “Today’s decision to ban the procurement of new Huawei 5G equipment from the end of this year will delay roll-out by a further year and will add up to half a billion pounds to costs.

“Requiring operators in addition to remove Huawei equipment from their 5G networks by 2027 will add hundreds of millions of pounds further to the cost and further delayed roll-out.

“This means a cumulative delay to 5G roll-out of two to three years and costs of up to £2 billion. This will have real consequences for the connections on which all our constituents rely.”

The announcement means that by the next General Election, the UK will have implemented an “irreversible path” to the complete removal of Huawei equipment from 5G networks.

It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson chaired a meeting of the National Security Council this morning to discuss ending the tech firm’s role in building the new ultra fast 5G network.

Sanctions imposed in May by the US have limited China’s access to US chip technology, and prompted the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) to launch a review of the use of Huawei. Mr Dowden made a statement to Parliament today after a technical review of the sanctions by the NCSC.

In January, Boris Johnson agreed to let Huawei continue to be used in the 5G networks but with restrictions, despite pressure from the US to block the firm.

Huawei had been allowed to play a limited role in the 5G network despite concerns that it was a “high risk” vendor because of its links to the Chinese government.

It was agreed that the tech giant would be banned from supplying kit to “sensitive parts” of the network.

Today’s volte-face, just six months after Huawei was given a 35 per cent share in the network, follows a Tory rebellion and pressure from Donald Trump and the Five Eyes intelligence allies, including Australia.

Despite the ruling, suppliers are being advised by the Government to stockpile Huawei equipment in the short term to ensure that supplies can be maintained. Huawei components in the existing 4G, 3G and 2G networks will not be removed.

Earlier equipment is not regarded as a security risk and all Huawei equipment on the more advanced 4G network was vetted by scientists at the GCHQ listening post.

Huawei will replace broken equipment in the short term, but in the long run its 4G parts will be replaced by other manufacturers if they go wrong.

The NCSC report to ministers said that a key Taiwanese semi-conductor firm had already stopped supplying Huawei in response to the US sanctions. There are no plans to pay compensation to Huawei.

Ed Brewster, a spokesman for Huawei UK, 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.

“Regrettably our future in the UK has become politicized, this is about US trade policy and not security. Over the past 20 years, Huawei has focused on building a better connected UK. As a responsible business, we will continue to support our customers as we have always done.

“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.”

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