In a major U-turn, the UK government on Tuesday announced a ban on the purchase of new Huawei kits for 5G from next year and said that the Chinese telecom giant’s equipment will be completely removed from 5G networks by the end of 2027.
The decision comes following new advice produced by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) on the impact of US sanctions against the telecommunications vendor.
The decision was taken in a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) chaired by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in response to the 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 it has 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 agreed that UK operators should stop the purchase of Huawei equipment affected by the sanctions.
“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,” the UK’s Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said in a statement.
“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.”
Huawei called the decision “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 Edward Brewster, spokesperson of Huawei UK.
“Regrettably our future in the UK has become politicised, 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,” Brewster said.
The UK 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.