Operators must stop installing Huawei 5G kit from next September

The UK government has announced that UK mobile operators must stop installing new Huawei 5G equipment after September next year, following its decision to impose stricter restrictions on “high risk” vendors.

 In July, the Government announced that – despite previously permitting Huawei a limited role providing equipment for the non-core parts of the UK’s 5G network – it would be fully shut out of UK networks.

The UK’s decision to formally exclude Huawei came amid diplomatic pressure from its intelligence allies and strict new US restrictions against the company, which GCHQ reported would compromise the security of its 5G equipment. Huawei has repeatedly denied claims that it poses a national security risk.

Mobile operators BT, Vodafone, and Three all launched their 5G networks using Huawei in parts of their non-core networks. They will have until 2027 to remove all Huawei equipment from their 5G infrastructure. Telecommunications companies have also been banned from buying new 5G equipment from the company after the end of the year; some lawmakers have expressed concern that operators may stockpile Huawei equipment to be deployed over the coming years.

The latest rule will prevent the companies from installing Huawei equipment from autumn of next year. It will allow maintenance of previously-installed Huawei equipment. Operators have stated that they will already be rolling out alternative equipment from Huawei competitors Nokia and Ericsson from 2021 onwards.

The government also set a deadline of January 28 2023 for its previously-announced 35 per cent cap on Huawei equipment in fibre-to-the-premises and other gigabit networks.

The government is introducing the Telecommunications (Security) Bill to Parliament, which proposes expanding its powers to shut high-risk vendors out of UK networks. It proposes a fine of up to 10 per cent of turnover or £100,000 a day for companies which fail to comply with the ban, with Ofcom given the responsibility to monitor and assess their security practices.

“I am setting out a clear path for the complete removal of high-risk vendors from our 5G networks,” said digital minister Oliver Dowden. “This will be done through new and unprecedented powers to identify and ban telecoms equipment which poses a threat to our national security.”

“We are also publishing a new strategy to make sure we are never again dependent on a handful of telecoms vendors for the smooth and secure running of our networks. Our plan will spark a wave of innovation in the design of our future mobile networks.”

The 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy includes an initial £250m of funding to create a more diverse and competitive supply market for telecommunications infrastructure, the establishment of a National Telecoms Lab research facility, and investment in open radio technology.