All purchases of new Huawei 5G equipment are to be banned after 31 December 2020, and all Huawei equipment to be removed from 5G networks by end of 2027, the UK’s Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden announced to the House of Commons on 14 July.
The UK government says that the decision was taken ‘in a meeting of the National Security Council… in response to 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.’
Addressing parliament, 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.’
He said that by the time of the next UK election, ‘We will have implemented in law an irreversible path for the complete removal of Huawei equipment from our 5G networks.’
The decision is a departure from a recommendation published earlier this year, following a review of the telecoms supply chain, that telecoms operators reduce their use of Huawei products ‘as soon as practical’ (and before 2023) and has been described as a ‘U-turn.’
On 15 July, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chungying told a press conference, ‘Without any solid evidence and under the excuse of non-existent risks, the UK has decided to get in line with the US in discriminating against and excluding the Chinese company, which blatantly violated the market economy principles and free trade rules as well as its own commitments, severely damaged the legitimate interests of the Chinese company and eroded mutual trust underpinning China-UK cooperation. China strongly opposes this move.’
She added, ‘It is not just about one company and one industrial sector. It is about the UK politicizing commercial and technological issues at all costs. It is about the Chinese investment in the UK facing greater threats. It is about whether we can still feel confident about the openness, fairness and non-discrimination of the British market. China will evaluate this development in a comprehensive and serious manner and take all necessary measures to protect the legitimate and legal rights and interests of Chinese enterprises.’