UK Bans Huawei 5G Technology, Kits Must Be Removed by 2027

By Joshua Cawthorpe, July 17, 2020

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On July 14, the British government banned Huawei’s 5G technology, a reversal from a decision back in January to give the Chinese telecommunications giant a limited role in the country’s rollout of broadband telecom infrastructure.

The ban prevents British Telecom (BT) and other telecommunication companies that are currently working to implement a faster 5G and fiber optic broadband network in the United Kingdom from using Huawei 5G tech, according to BBC. After December 31, 2020, the ban will also prohibit the use of new Huawei 5G kits. Those that have already been installed or will be before the year’s end must be removed before 2027.

Addressing the House of Commons of the decision on Tuesday, Digital and Culture Minister Oliver Dowden said, “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.”

The Chinese government has criticized the decision, and calls the allegation that Huawei 5G poses a security risk ‘groundless.’ Hua Chunying, the spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry, also said that China would “safeguard the legitimate interests of Chinese companies.” The decision to ban Huawei 5G technology is expected to delay the rollout of 5G coverage in the UK by two to three years.

The US government has praised the move and, although CNBC reported that one British minister denied the US influenced their decision, Donald Trump has taken personal responsibility for the decision. In an interview at the White House on Tuesday, Trump claimed to be successfully pressuring other countries to follow the US in excluding the Chinese company from providing 5G technology.

The ban only implicitly refers to 5G technology and older generations of 2G, 3G and 4G technology are not considered a security risk. Fiber optic broadband technology is also included in the ban, but operators have been instructed to ‘transition away’ from the technology over the next two years. BT’s Openreach, a London-based telecommunications company, stated that they would begin purchasing fiber optic kits from an American company called Adtran, but products will not arrive until at least 2021. BT stated that they would require a five-year warning to implement a total boycott of Huawei products as the Shenzhen-based company provides one-third of the equipment purchased by UK telecom companies. Huawei is the largest telecom equipment maker in the world, with a market share of 35.7% in the first quarter of this year.

Huawei has been in the UK market for two decades, and received UK government approval last month to build a GBP1 billion research facility which would become the company’s international headquarters for fiber optic technology. In a report by China Daily, a Huawei spokesperson expressed his regret that  “[Huawei’s] future in the UK has been politicized.”

[Cover image via Wikimedia]

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