UK telecoms firms will have to stop installing Huawei 5G kits by September 2021 as the UK Government accelerates its ban on the Chinese company.
Companies will be unable to buy new 5G kits from Huawei from the end of this year. However, the updated schedule means that companies with existing stock will be unable to install them.
All Huawei kits need to be removed from the UK’s 5G network by 2027 – under the old schedule, any previously purchased kits could be installed until then.
Concerns had been raised that telecoms companies could stockpile Huawei-made 5G kits ahead of the deadline and install them later.
Companies will still be able to maintain existing and previously installed components.
The new roadmap to removing Huawei’s components from the 5G network was set out by Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden
“I am setting out a clear path for the complete removal of high-risk vendors from our 5G networks. This will be done through new and unprecedented powers to identify and ban telecoms equipment which poses a threat to our national security,” he stated.
The move comes as the UK’s Telecommunications Security Bill received its second reading in the House of Commons on November 30.
Under the legislation, the ban on Huawei’s 5G kits will be formalised, making it law that the company’s equipment be uninstalled by 2027.
It “establishes a tough new security framework for all the UK’s public telecoms providers,” Dowden said in the House of Commons.
Dowden emphasised that the new bill seeks to go beyond the potential threat posed by Huawei and address longer-term cybersecurity threats to the UK.
“The point of this Bill is not just to tackle one high-risk vendor; it raises the security bar across the board and protects us against a whole range of threats,” Dowden said.
However, he also noted that the Bill does not name Huawei directly, meaning that the ban could be reversed in years to come should it no longer be deemed a high-risk vendor.
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The use of Huawei-made equipment in the UK’s 5G network was banned in July this year. The move was based on claims of collusion between the company and the Chinese state, creating national security concerns over what potential vulnerabilities in national infrastructure that China could exploit.
By shifting away from Huawei, the UK was left with few alternative suppliers for 5G components, leading to a major deal with Sweden’s Ericsson to supply the UK with kits.
However, the UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has warned that the reliance on Ericsson, along with Finland’s Nokia, creates national security risks due to the limited pool of suppliers.
To help mitigate this, Dowden also revealed the publication of a new 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy. This will outline the UK Government’s approach to creating a resilient supply chain to compensate for the loss of Huawei.
As part of the strategy, the government will spend £250 million to develop the telecoms supply market. This will include funding and building a national telecoms lab to test the performance and security of 5G equipment.