U.K. Bans Huawei From 5G Networks in Security Crackdown

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Huawei Technologies Co. will be banned from the U.K.’s next generation mobile networks, in a sweeping crackdown on the Chinese company that will delay 5G roll-out and hit businesses with billions of pounds in extra costs.

Under the blueprint agreed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, operators will not be able to add any new Huawei components to their 5G networks after Dec. 31 this year. All equipment made by the Shenzhen-based company that has already been installed will need to be removed from 5G infrastructure by 2027, the government said, confirming reports by Bloomberg News on Monday.

Ministers also warned operators to stop buying Huawei gear for their fixed full-fiber broadband networks. The government will consult with industry on a timetable for the tighter regime on fixed networks but said it is expected to come into force within two years.
U.K. Carriers’ High-Cost Estimates on Huawei Ban Raise Doubts

The ban on Huawei will cost U.K. operators as much as 2 billion pounds ($2.51 billion) to implement, and will delay the roll out of 5G networks by between two and three years, the government said.
The decision to strip out Huawei’s kit from British networks represents a major reversal by Johnson, and threatens to fuel a growing row between the U.K. and China at a highly sensitive time. China has warned Johnson will face “consequences” if the U.K. treats it as a “hostile partner.”

Johnson, his senior ministers and top security chiefs signed off on the plan at a meeting of the National Security Council on Tuesday. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden set out the details after the meeting. While 5G will be “transformative” for the U.K., “confidence in the security and resilience of the infrastructure it is built upon” is vital.

“The government has decided it is necessary to ban Huawei from our 5G networks,” Dowden said. “This decisive move provides the industry with the clarity and certainty it needs to get on with delivering 5G across the U.K.”

In May the U.S. banned Huawei from sourcing microchips that use American technology, a move that forced British officials to reassess their view of the security and sustainability of using the company’s equipment in 5G networks.

“This was a significant and material change,” Dowden said. These sanctions have “potentially severe impacts” on Huawei’s ability to supply equipment to the U.K, he said.
The U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre led a review that concluded the new U.S. sanctions meant Huawei would have to use potentially insecure technology, making 5G security risks impossible to control.

British phone companies now have a complex and expensive task to remove Huawei gear from their networks over the next seven years. Dowden warned the decision will inevitably delay the roll out of 5G networks in the U.K.

Johnson gave the green light to Huawei’s involvement in emerging mobile networks in January, subject to limits, but he came under intense pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump to change course.
At the same time, Johnson has faced demands from within his own Conservative Party to take a tougher line with Beijing. Senior Tories demanded the premier should give firm deadlines for when Huawei will be blocked from Britain, amid concerns its equipment could be used by Chinese spies — a charge the company denies.

Johnson now faces several difficulties. Huawei is a huge global phone equipment maker that is already embedded in British networks. Removing it will be complicated for phone companies and risks undermining the premier’s election promise to improve communications services across the U.K.

In the short term, a ban on the company will inflame already heated relations between London and Beijing. Tensions have grown recently over China’s new security law in Hong Kong, a former British colony, and the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week Liu Xiaoming, China’s ambassador to the U.K., accused Johnson’s government of “gross interference” in domestic policy and accused the U.K. of “dancing to the tune” of the U.S. over Huawei. Even in London, the prime minister may find his plans do not go far enough to satisfy some of his Conservative colleagues.

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