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UK bans Huawei from 5G networks

July 14, 2020

The British government has said the country's 5G network must be purged of Huawei equipment by 2027, and new purchases of Huawei 5G network equipment will be banned starting in 2021.

Huawei in Reading, UK
Image: Reuters/M. Childs

Britain excludes Huawei from 5G expansion: Emily Taylor (Chatham House) speaks to DW

The United Kingdom on Tuesday announced that all 5G network equipment produced by the Chinese tech giant Huawei will be banned from the country's 5G network 

"From the end of this year, telecoms providers must not buy any 5G equipment from Huawei," the UK's digital minister, Oliver Dowden told Parliament.  

The new guidelines also require all existing Huawei equipment to be stripped from the UK's networks by the start of 2027.  

Huawei is the world's leading producer of ultra-fast 5G network technology. However, there is an ongoing debate led by the United States over data security concerns and Huawei possibly turning over sensitive information sent across its networks to Beijing. 

The UK's reversal also comes as Sino-British tensions grow over a number of issues, including a new controversial national security law imposed by Beijing on the former British colony of Hong Kong.

Read MoreHanover fair: No industrial revolution without 5G

Effect of new US sanctions? 

In January, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson drew the ire of the US government by allowing Huawei to assist with the roll out of up to 35% of the UK's 5G network after Huawei networks passed British security checks. 

However, after new US sanctions in May blocked Huawei access to essential US-produced chips and semi-conductors, the UK's signals-intelligence agency, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), said they could no longer guarantee Huawei's gear was secure.  

The GCHQ said Huawei's lack of access to trusted US suppliers raised the possibility that the company could have to use unverifiable alternatives. 

"Thishasnotbeenaneasydecision,butitistherightone fortheUK'stelecomsnetworks,forournationalsecurityandour economy,both now and in the long run,"Dowden told Parliament, adding the UK will legally implement an "irreversible path" for the complete removal of Huawei.  

What does it mean for 5G in the UK? 

Despite security concerns, the scale of Huawei's 5G operations allows it to build networks faster and cheaper than its European competitors Nokia and Ericsson. 

British telecom companies have previously warned that gutting Huawei equipment would take years to implementcost billions, and result in widespread network blackouts. The seven-year time frame for removing Huawei could give operators like BT and Three time to replace the equipment and find alternatives.  

Huawei has repeatedly denied that it would allow officials in Beijing to spy on its networks, and accused the US of trying to cripple the Chinese tech giant. 

Huawei's spokesman told Reuters Tuesday that the UK ban was "disappointing" and "bad news for anyone in the UK with a mobile phone." 

Other European countries, like Germany, have yet to completely close out Huawei from developing 5G networks.  

In January, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, said that he opposed completely excluding Huawei from building Germany's 5G networks.  

"I don't think we can quickly build a 5G network in Germany without Huawei taking part," the interior minister said, adding that German Chancellor Angela Merkel was in agreement.  

wmr/stb (Reuters, AFP)