U.K. Bans Installation of Huawei 5G Equipment From September

Telecoms giants in the U.K. must stop installing Huawei equipment in the country's 5G networks from next September, the government has said.

Britain's digital and media secretary, Oliver Dowden, revealed plans to phase out the involvement of Chinese company Huawei ahead of the passing of a new Telecommunications Security Bill. The British government set a September 2021 deadline for carriers to stop installing Huawei equipment after banning it over the summer following pressure from the United States. Westminster had initially allowed the company a limited role in the U.K.'s 5G rollout.

Washington has imposed strict sanctions on Huawei, claiming the Shenzhen-based company could enable the government in Beijing to spy on sensitive communications. Huawei denies the U.S. allegations. The U.K. Telecommunications Security Bill is the first to enshrine the banning of the Chinese company's involvement in Britain's 5G network into law. British lawmakers will debate the bill at a second reading in Parliament.

The legislation would create national security powers capable of imposing controls on when – if at all – a telecoms firm could use material supplied by companies such as Huawei. Carriers will be allowed to maintain Huawei equipment that has been installed before the ban date of September 30, 2021.

The U.K. is also set to spend £250 million ($333 million) to help diversify its 5G supply chain to ensure more competition and choice. This includes establishing a National Telecoms Lab research facility, as well as investment in innovative open radio technology, funding a trial with Japan's NEC.

"I am setting out a clear path for the complete removal of high-risk vendors from our 5G networks," 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.

 Huawei store in Beijing, China
Shoppers walk past a Huawei store in Beijing, China Getty/Greg Baker

"We are also publishing a new strategy to make sure we are never again dependent on a handful of telecoms vendors for the smooth and secure running of our networks. Our plans will spark a wave of innovation in the design of our future mobile networks."

Huawei has declined to comment. The company has already warned of the economic damage a U.K. ban would inflict, claiming it could delay the rollout of high-speed 5G internet in the country by a number of years.

It follows news that U.K. carriers would be fined up to 10 percent of their revenues or £100,000 ($133,000) a day if they fail to meet the standards set out in the new legislation. Communications regulator Ofcom is to be tasked with the monitoring and assessing of security protocols among telecoms providers.