Britain bans new Huawei 5G kit installation from Sept 2021

Britain has already ordered all Huawei equipment to be removed from its 5G network by the end of 2027.
Britain has already ordered all Huawei equipment to be removed from its 5G network by the end of 2027.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - British telecommunications firms must not install new Huawei 5G kit after Sept 2021, the government said on Monday (Nov 30), as part of a plan to purge the Chinese firm's equipment from high speed mobile networks.

Britain has already ordered all Huawei equipment to be removed from its 5G network by the end of 2027, falling in line with intelligence allies including the United States who say the firm poses security risks.

China has criticised that decision, while Huawei said last week it was disappointed Britain was looking to exclude it from the 5G roll-out after the publication of new laws that could see firms fined 100,000 pounds (S$178,009) if they break the ban.

Monday's announcement comes ahead of a debate over new telecoms legislation in Parliament and fleshes out the timeline for equipment removal.

"I am setting out a clear path for the complete removal of high risk vendors from our 5G networks," digital minister Oliver Dowden said in a statement.

"This will be done through new and unprecedented powers to identify and ban telecoms equipment which poses a threat to our national security."

The government has also announced a new strategy to diversify the 5G supply chain, consisting of an initial 250 million pound investment, trials in collaboration with Japanese firm NEC and the establishment of new research facilities.

Lawmakers from Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party are demanding stricter rules on companies using Huawei 5G gear, as part of the price for backing the telecoms legislation. Before now, lawmakers had left it to telecom firms to replace Huawei’s 5G equipment before a blanket ban is set to be enforced in 2027.

Network providers have been stockpiling parts made by Huawei while sourcing alternatives.

An early ban on installing those parts could increase costs at companies such as BT Group Plc and Vodafone Group Plc, which would be forced to speed up the overhaul of parts of their networks, according to people familiar with the companies’ plans.

Britain has already banned the buying new Huawei 5G kit after the end of the year.

In January, it granted Huawei a limited role in 5G networks, leading to a parliamentary rebellion. Prime Minister Boris Johnson reversed his position in July, after US sanctions introduced in May affected Huawei’s supply chain. British officials said the change meant they were no longer able to guarantee the security of the Shenzhen company’s products.

The current draft of the telecommunications Bill grants the government powers to enforce a moratorium against Huawei, but includes no deadline and doesn’t mention any company by name, angering potential Conservative rebels who want firm commitments against Huawei.

The draft legislation proposes fines of as much as 10 per cent of sales or 100,000 pounds a day for violations, which will apply to carriers including BT Group and Vodafone.

Britain said its July decision was related to concerns that US sanctions on chip technology could affect supply lines.

Huawei said at the time the decision was disappointing, and about US trade policy rather than security.

Without Huawei, British mobile networks will lean heavily on its Nordic rivals Nokia Oyj and Ericsson AB. The government is due to publish more details about diversifying Britain's 5G supply chain in the next few weeks.