Huawei 5G Ordered Out Of UK Networks

The British government has banned mobile providers buying new Huawei 5G equipment after 31 December this year and they must remove all the Chinese firm's 5G kit from their networks and they will have seven years to remove its existing technology from their 5G infrastructure at an expected cost of £2 billion. 

The announcement follows a new report about Huawei’s role in the UK’s national infrastructure from the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). It follows escalating tension with Beijing and pressure from Washington and could add to the pressure on other European countries to review their approach to the Chinese telecoms giant.

By reversimng his earlier policy to allow Huawei up to a 35 per cent share in the non-sensitive parts of Britain’s 5G networks, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ignored threats from Chinese officials that there will be “consequences” if the UK treats China as a “hostile partner”. Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden has told the UK Parliament that this legislation would remove all Huawei kit from 5G networks.

China experts have warned about the huge impact on diplomatic and economic relations with Beijing, predicting “pretty severe turbulence”.

It follows sanctions imposed by Washington, which claims the firm poses a national security threat, which is denied by Huawei."This has not been an easy decision, but it is the right one for the UK telecoms networks, for our national security and our economy, both now and indeed in the long run," Dowden said. Minister Dowden also said that the move would delay the country's 5G rollout by a year and that the cumulative cost of this, plus restrictions announced against Huawei earlier in the year, would be up to £2bn.

Because the US sanctions only affect future equipment, the government has been advised there is no security justification for removing 2G, 3G and 4G equipment supplied by Huawei. Huawei said the move was: "bad news for anyone in the UK with a mobile phone" and threatened to "move Britain into the digital slow lane, push up bills and deepen the digital divide".

The government wants operators to "transition away" from purchasing new Huawei equipment for use in the full-fibre network.

Many members of Johnson’s Conservative Party have been pushing the government to take a tougher stance, with rebels lambasting the government for giving Huawei another seven years to operate in the country, with some calling call for Huawei equipment to be excluded by 2025. 

Both BT and Vodafone had warned that customers might face mobile blackouts if they remove all of Huawei's 5G equipmnent any faster.

Semiconductior Chips

Britain most recently reviewed Huawei's role in its telecoms infrastructure in January, when it was  announced that the company would stay as a supplier but would cap its market share, however, in May the US introduced new sanctions designed to disrupt Huawei's ability to get its own chips manufactured. 

This led the NCSC and othersecurity officials to conclude they could no longer assure the security of its products if the company had to start sourcing chips from third-parties for use in its equipment.

Other political considerations are also likely to have also come into play including the UK's desire to strike a trade deal with the US, and growing tensions with China over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak and its treatment of Hong Kong.

Many countries will be watching carefully to see how China reacts to this setback. There are numerous precedente for China attemptto punish the UK in order to discourage others from following its lead on 5G. Alterntively, China might want to avoid being seen as a bully and prefer to try and influence the decision more subtly. In any event it appears that the Huawei story in the UK is not over yet.

Huawei says it employs about 1,600 people in the UK and claims to be one of Britain's largest sources of Chinese investment.   

Shortly before the announcement the ex-CEO of BP and subsequently Chairman of Huawei's UK opertaions, Lord Browne, announced he would be leaving the Chinese company, 2 months before his term was set to expire.

SCMP:       The Verge:      Independent:      BBC

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