UK Will Phase Out Huawei Equipment for 5G Networks by 2027

In January of 2020, the UK announced that it would allow Huawei’s equipment to be used in the country’s 5G infrastructure with limitations, but the UK government just announced on July 14th that they’ll be phasing out Huawei’s equipment by 2027. UK telecom operators will no longer be able to buy Huawei equipment and must remove any of the equipment from the China-based company within the next seven years. The move is estimated to cost £2 billion. 

Under the previous agreement with Huawei announced in January of this year, the company would hold at most a 35% market share and its equipment could not be used in the core parts of the UK’s 5G network nor sensitive locations. The move comes after a new report from the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre surrounding Huawei’s role in the UK’s national infrastructure. 

Some UK officials, like the UK’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, Oliver Dowden, said that the move to remove Huawei equipment “will delay our rollout of 5G.” However, during the announcement, the UK government also asked that full fiber broadband operators stop purchasing and transition from Huawei equipment. 

The British government has been under a lot of pressure, mainly from the US, in the past few months to completely remove Huawei equipment. A lot of security experts are concerned that Huawei equipment poses a security risk that could allow the Chinese government to spy on Western countries, despite Huawei denying these allegations. 

Huawei has been on the US’ “entity list” since May of 2019. This means that US companies cannot sell any of their technology to Huawei and the US government went as far as to toughen that stance with more sanctions against Huawei in May of this year. The new rules set to begin in September, Huawei and its suppliers cannot use American technology to design or produce Huawei products. The US government said the new ruling is set to close a loophole that allows Huawei to use American technology. 

According to critics, these new restrictions will impact how Huawei produces their products, therefore making them less safe for use. According to a leaked security report, the restrictions “will force the company to use untrusted technology that could increase the risk to the UK.” 

One fallout from the new sanctions will be Huawei’s HiSilicon chipsets. These chipsets rely on an electronic design software (EDA) which will no longer be allowed to be used in the design or production of Huawei’s chips since popular EDA developers have ties to the US. This move makes it hard for Huawei to produce state-of-the-art processors, pushing the company towards third-party chips that could make it harder for UK cybersecurity officials to vet. 

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been under immense pressure from his own party when 38 Conservative MPs vote against the government in favor of an amendment to stop using Huawei in the development of the nation’s 5G networks. Conservative MPs believe that Huawei poses an increased national security risk that could allow the Chinese government to spy on the UK. The government won the vote and it put pressure on Boris to be tougher on Huawei. 

A spokesperson from Huawei said the decision was “disappointing” but remained “confident” that the new US sanctions would have no impact on “the resilience or security of the products we supply to the UK.” The spokesperson also urged the UK to reconsider its decision because the sanction was based on trade policy and not surrounding security concerns. 

Many telecom companies are not on board with the possible ban because they’ve already started using Huawei equipment to build out their 5G networks. BT chief executive, Phillip Jansen, told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that it would take upwards of five to seven years to remove Huawei equipment from 5G networks and that it would be “impossible” to remove Huawei entirely from the UK’s telecom infrastructure in the next decade. Jansen warned that removing Huawei equipment too fast could result in outages and security risks. 

Source: The Verge