Tuesday, 14 July 2020 21:58

UK to remove Huawei gear by 2027, no new purchases after year-end Featured

Oliver Dowden: "No new [Huawei] kit is to be added from January 2021, and UK 5G networks will be Huawei free by the end of 2027." Oliver Dowden: "No new [Huawei] kit is to be added from January 2021, and UK 5G networks will be Huawei free by the end of 2027." Courtesy Oliver Dowden's website

The British Government announced a little while ago that it would stop using gear from the Chinese telecommunications equipment vendor Huawei Technologies in the country's 5G networks and would remove all existing gear by the end of 2027.

Culture Minister OIiver Dowden told the House of Commons on Tuesday night that telecommunications firms were barred from buying any more of the company's 5G equipment from the end of the year.

Further, Dowden said a consultation would begin to decide when to ban Huawei equipment from British fibre optic networks.

The seven-year period is in keeping with the opinion of BT chief executive Philip Jansen who told BBC Radio 4's Today program this week that it would be impossible to remove Huawei equipment in a shorter time frame.

Britain had announced in January that it would allow Huawei to supply up to 35% of gear for the non-core parts of 5G networks.

Based on this decision, which was leaked last May well before it was officially announced, Vodafone, O2, EE (a BT unit) and Three all rolled out 5G networks, and used Huawei gear in non-core parts of the network. Spanish group Telefonica owns O2 and it has used Huawei’s infrastructure in some of its other networks. O2 has no wide use of Huawei in the UK, but has a network-sharing agreement with Vodafone.

Dowden said: "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."

Following US pressure, applied on Prime Minister Boris Johnson when Washington was approached about a trade deal, Britain agreed to review its earlier stance. New American strictures imposed on Huawei in May have been taken to mean that any risk mitigation which was possible earlier would not be possible now.

Among the Five Eyes countries, only Canada and New Zealand are yet to make a formal announcement about using Huawei gear. New Zealand has stayed mum, even though the a proposal for use of Huawei equipment by its main telco Spark was turned down by the country's spy agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau.

The UK decision came after technical experts at the NCSC reviewed the consequences of the new US sanctions and concluded Huawei would need to do a major reconfiguration of its supply chain as it would no longer have access to the technology on which it currently relies and there were no alternatives in which the UK had sufficient confidence.

The experts were said to have found that the new restrictions made it impossible to continue to guarantee the security of Huawei equipment in the future.

As a result, ministers agreed that UK operators should stop the purchase of Huawei equipment affected by the sanctions.

Two big Canadian telecommunications companies — Bell Canada and Telus Corporation — recently said they had chosen Swedish firm Ericsson and Finland's Nokia to provide then with 5G equipment.

Bell, which is Canada's biggest mobile provider, said it would use equipment from Ericsson for the core of its 5G network, with Nokia to supply gear for other parts of the rollout.

Telus also picked the two firms, the only two in the world that can supply gear for an end-to-end 5G network apart from global leader Huawei and its Chinese competitor, ZTE Corporation.

Canada's other big telco, Rogers Communications, has already said it would be using equipment from Ericsson.

The US has been on a crusade for the last few years, asking countries not to use the company's gear, claiming that it is a security risk, but providing no proof to substantiate these claims.

Huawei, a privately-owned firm, has constantly denied these allegations to no avail.

Both Ericsson and Nokia make most of their gear in China, in partnership with state-owned companies.

Ericsson Panda — a joint venture between the Swedish firm and China's Panda Electronics — has as one shareholder the state-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Committee, while Nokia Shanghai Bell is a joint venture with state-owned China Huaxin Post & Telecommunication.

But the use of Ericsson gear has come under a cloud recently after the Pentagon released a list which claimed that Ericsson's partner, Panda Electronics, was either owned or controlled by the People's Liberation Army.

Under questioning from an Australian Parliamentary panel, Ericsson on 19 February, admitted that equipment from its joint-venture with Panda Electronics was being supplied to Australian customers, including the country's biggest telco Telstra.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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