The decision follows criticism for allowing the Chinese firm into 5G network infrastructure and, according to the Government, a technical review by the National Cyber Security Centre.
- Buying new Huawei 5G equipment banned after 31 December 2020
- All Huawei equipment to be removed from 5G networks by end of 2027
- Existing ban on Huawei from most sensitive ‘core’ parts of 5G network remains
Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said in a statement to the House of Commons: “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”.
HUAWEI will be completely removed from the UK’s 5G networks by the end of 2027, the government has announced, following new advice produced by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) on the impact of US 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 2020.
“The decision was taken today in a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) chaired by the Prime Minister, 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. 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 we have sufficient confidence in. They 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 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. 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 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.”
Earlier in the year, American Senator Tom Cotton warned the Defence Select Committee that the UK’s decision to allow Huawei to build aspects of its 5G network “raises too great a risk for us to have that advanced aircraft in any nation with this system”, he said speaking of US F-35 deployments in the UK.
The Telegraph had earlier reported that Republican senators in the US were moving to block 48 US fighter jets being deployed to Britain over Huawei concerns after an amendment was tabled that would would bar F-35 deployment to countries where Huawei builds 5G network components.
Some members of the Defence Select Committee have also expressed concerns over the UK Government including Huawei equipment in the UK 5G network, with MP for West Dunbartonshire Martin Docherty-Hughes saying “handing over your 5G network to the Communist party of any country is utter insanity”.
I’m sure many of you will remember last year when Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson was sacked by then Prime Minister Theresa May over allegations of leaks from a National Security Council. According to those alleged leaks, Prime Minister Theresa May rejected the advice of senior ministers and agreed Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s ‘non-core’ 5G network.
Recently, Senator Tom Cotton discussed American objections further in a Defence Select Committee meeting on ‘The Security of 5G’ on the 2nd of June:
“Again, a lot of it goes back to signals intelligence and the sensitivity of sources and methods. Some of these things we can’t discuss in an open setting, but they are concerns that our intelligence professionals and our technical experts have raised about not just the
United Kingdom using Huawei, but any nation that uses Huawei technology.
I want to correct something that one of the Members said earlier about my legislation—that it would delay the deployment of F-35 fighters to the United Kingdom. It does not delay them specifically to the United Kingdom. It simply says that it raises too great a risk for us to have that advanced aircraft in any nation with this system. Obviously, the United
Kingdom is not the only nation that uses Huawei. We will have to face that threat in other ations that choose to use Huawei to build up their 5G network.”
Senator Cotton also expressed his hope that the UK ‘weans’ itself off of Huawei:
“Like our Government’s stated reaction in January, it disappointed me. I understand that you face a different kind of situation than do we, because of the legacy networks you have—the 3G and 4G networks—that use Huawei technology. I do hope that as the Government refines its decision, if it does not reverse it outright, it will mitigate it by
minimising the use of Huawei technology, putting it on a shorter timeframe, limiting the expansion of the 5G network and taking the steps we have done to help wean 4G and 3G networks off Huawei’s legacy technology.
I have seen media reports that suggest that could happen as early as 2023. I would welcome that—I would welcome you doing it even earlier. I am a bit mystified about why you would spend the money to build out a 5G network using one kind of technology only to tear it out three years later. But again, we will continue to observe and work with your
Government and the decisions they take to try to ensure that our alliance remains as strong as it always has been and that we are also creating the kinds of alternatives that Mr Francois and I were just discussing for the rest of the world.”
When asked if the Government changing tack and reducing Huawei involvement to zero by 2023 would be enough to mitigate his concerns he responded:
“It obviously would in 2023, but remember that many of my concerns are not specific to the United Kingdom. To go back to legislation that we discussed earlier about F-35 fighters, we have got to make a decision about deploying those to many different countries. Obviously, if you no longer have Huawei technology in your network, then F-35 fighters could be based in your country under my legislation. That does not mean that I would drop my legislation, because my legislation is not about the United Kingdom; it is about Huawei and the threat that Huawei poses to our airmen and our aircraft. But I would welcome that decision to go to zero by 2023, and I would urge you to try to do so even sooner.”