The United Kingdom government has ordered for Huawei telecommunications equipment to be removed completely from its 5G networks by 2027. At the same time, UK mobile providers are also prohibited from buying new Huawei 5G equipment after 31st December 2020.
According to Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport of the UK, “This has not been an easy decision, but it is the right one for the UK telecoms network, for our national security and our economy, both now and indeed in the long run.”
The Digital Secretary told the House of Commons, “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.” He also emphasised that from the end of this year, UK telcos must not procure any 5G equipment from Huawei. Once the telecoms security bill is passed, it will illegal for them to do so.
He added that the latest move would further delay UK’s rollout of 5G. The UK’s decision in January to limit Huawei’s involvement in 5G networks has already delayed the rollout by a year and have cost up to a GBP 1 billion (about RM5.35 billion). The latest decision to ban the procurement of Huawei 5G equipment will delay rollout by another year and would add GBP 0.5 billion (about RM2.67 billion) in cost. The requirement for telcos to replace equipment by 2027 will add hundreds of millions of pounds further to the cost. In total, it is estimated that 5G rollout will be delayed by 2-3 years with a cumulative cost of up to GBP 2 billion (about RM10.7 billion).
The latest decision came after a review made by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre. After the US issued a new sanction on Huawei, the UK believes that Huawei is very unlikely to be able to use US technology and software in the design and manufacture of its products. The NCSC has studied the impact of the latest changes and it no longer considers that the UK would be able to manage the security risks of using affected Huawei technology in their future 5G networks.
Interestingly, this new directive only affects 5G equipment as the US sanctions only affect future equipment. According to the BBC’s report, the government sees no security justification to remove 2G, 3G and 4G equipment supplied by Huawei.
The NCSC iterated that its review is purely based on Huawei equipment used by telcos and it doesn’t affect existing Huawei technology used by consumers. It added that current Huawei devices and apps should continue to work and will continue to receive security updates during its normal lifetime. However, it warned that newer Huawei devices may not be able to use Google applications and services due to the ongoing US restrictions.