The decision represents a u-turn by Boris Johnson, who had granted Huawei a limited role back in January
Huawei equipment will be completely removed from the UK’s 5G networks by 2027, the government has confirmed.
This follows advice produced by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) based on the latest US sanctions imposed on Huawei.
Ahead of this, there will be a total ban on the purchase of any new 5G kit after December 31 2020.
The move signals a u-turn from the UK after Prime Minister Boris Johnson initially permitted Huawei a restricted 5G role, capped to 35 per cent in January.
It reflects a compromise with the UK’s operators after key figures from BT and Vodafone argued it would take “five years, maybe seven” to completely remove Huawei equipment.
However the latest US sanctions means Huawei has to manoeuvrer a major reconfiguration of its supply chain, with technical experts at the NCSC warning that “new restrictions make it impossible to continue to guarantee the security of Huawei equipment in the future.”
In a statement Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “5G will be transformative for our country, but only if we have confidence in the security and resilience of the infrastructure it is built upon.
“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. 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. By the time of the next election we will have implemented in law an irreversible path for the complete removal of Huawei equipment from our 5G networks.
Huawei has called the decision disappointing, citing politics as a key factor.
Huawei UK communications director Ed Brewster said: “This disappointing decision is 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.
“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.”
BT, which has Huawei equipment used within its 5G infrastructure has issued a statement of its own.
BT chief executive Philip Jansen said: “The security of our networks is an absolute priority for BT. Clearly this decision has logistical and cost implications for communications providers in the UK market – however, we believe the timescales outlined will allow us to make these changes without impacting on the coverage or resilience of our existing networks.
“It will also allow us to continue to rollout our 5G and full fibre networks without a significant impact on the timescales we’ve previously announced. Whilst we have provided our initial view on the estimated impact today, we will continue to evaluate the details of this decision thoroughly.”
Rival vendor Ericsson has called for the industry to come together in order to provide “world-leading 5G” for the UK.
Ericsson president of Europe and Latin America Arun Bansal said: “Today’s decision removes the uncertainty that was slowing down investment decisions around the deployment of 5G in the UK.
“Ericsson has the technology, experience and supply chain capacity to help accomplish this, and we stand ready to work with the UK operators to meet their timetable, with no disruption to customers.”
The government is expected to legislate the move with a new Telecoms Security Bill at the earliest opportunity possible.