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UK Banning Huawei From 5G Networks in Response to U.S. Sanctions

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The United Kingdom is banning Huawei from its high-speed 5G telecommunications network.

In January, U.K. regulators will implement a ban on telecom operators buying Huawei equipment. And existing Huawei 5G equipment will need to be removed from the U.K.’s 5G network by 2027.

The government announced it is banning Huawei following new advice by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). The NCSC is the U.K.’s technical authority for cyber threats.

The U.K. made the decision in response to U.S. sanctions imposed on Huawei in May. The U.S. action also affects Huawei products used in the U.K.’s full fiber broadband networks.

However, the U.K. has managed Huawei’s presence in the country’s fixed access networks since 2005. It wants to avoid a situation where broadband operators rely on a single supplier for their equipment.

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As a result, the U.K. is advising full fiber operators to move away from buying new Huawei equipment. The government expects this to last no longer than two years, at least for now.

Earlier this year, a federal court in the U.S.  charged Huawei and two of its U.S. subsidiaries with racketeering and conspiracy to steal trade secrets.

Huawei Security Concerns

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,” said Oliver Dowden, the U.K.’s digital secretary. “This decisive move provides the industry with clarity. And certainty it needs to get on with delivering 5G across the U.K..”

By its next election, the U.K. expects to have a law providing an irreversible path to remove all Huawei equipment from its 5G networks.

Positive Technologies' Michael Downs

Positive Technologies’ Michael Downs

Michael Downs is director of telecoms security at Positive Technologies. He said the phased approach will have a marked effect on the telecoms industry, potentially costing billions. That’s because a lot of major U.K. operators such as BT and Vodafone already are using its equipment. That’s not just for 5G, but previous generation networks as well, he said.

“Long term, the decision to exclude Huawei cannot be solved with a solution as idealistically simple as just swapping it for an alternative vendor immediately,” he said. “There is also the additional cost of delaying deployments, as companies have already gone through the process of testing 5G equipment from Huawei. This whole process – including testing – will have to be started all over again. This will mean a more expensive network for the U.K. and a delay that could result in its national infrastructure being inferior compared to other countries.”


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