Ministers today announced Huawei will be banned from the UK’s 5G network with all of the firm’s technology to be ripped out by 2027.
The move, announced by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, represents a major U-turn after the Government said in January that the Chinese tech giant would be allowed to help build the infrastructure.
Purchasing any new Huawei 5G equipment will be prohibited in the UK after December 31 this year and all of its hardware will then be removed from the network over the next seven years.
The decision, agreed by the National Security Council this morning, is likely to delay the completion of the rollout of the network by more than two years and increase costs by up to £2 billion.
The decision was made by the NSC after an assessment of the impact of new US sanctions on Huawei.
Mr Dowden said those sanctions mean the UK can ‘no longer be confident it will be able to guarantee the security of future Huawei 5G equipment’.
Huawei said the decision to ban it from the network was ‘disappointing’ and risked consigning the UK to the ‘digital slow lane’ as the firm also suggested its role in Britain had become ‘politicised’.
The announcement came on the same day that it emerged Huawei’s UK chairman is to step down early. Lord Browne’s term was due to end in March but the former BP boss is now expected to depart in September.
The decision to ban Huawei will spark Chinese government fury with Beijing having already warned that the UK would face ‘consequences’ if it pressed ahead with excluding Huawei.
But it will delight Tory MPs who have been pressuring the Government for months to reverse giving the firm the green light at the start of the year amid national security concerns.
However, the fact ministers have given the industry seven years to get rid of the firm’s technology will cause controversy with some MPs wanting action to be taken much quicker.
And while the company will be banned from 5G, its existing technology in the UK’s 4G and 3G networks will remain in place.
The firm’s technology will also not be removed from the UK’s full fibre broadband network but there will be a technical consultation conducted on moving away from using Huawei in full fibre in the future.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden today announced that Huawei technology is to be stripped out of the UK’s 5G network by 2027
The Huawei ban follows intense pressure from Donald Trump to deny China a foothold in the West’s critical infrastructure. Tough American sanctions have prevented the firm from using any US-patented technology in its microchips
Chairman of Huawei UK to quit early as Government bans firms from 5G network
Huawei’s UK chairman is to step down earlier than planned, it emerged today, as the Government announced it is banning the firm from Britain’s 5G network.
Lord Browne’s term was due to end in March but the former BP boss is now expected to depart in September.
A Huawei spokesman said: ‘When Lord Browne became chairman of Huawei UK’s board of directors in 2015, he brought with him a wealth of experience which has proved vital in ensuring Huawei’s commitment to corporate governance in the UK.
‘He has been central to our commitment here dating back 20 years, and we thank him for his valuable contribution.’
That ‘transition period’ on full fibre is not expected to last more than two years. The reason for the slow move away from Huawei in full fibre has been blamed on the fact that it is currently one of only two available suppliers in the UK, along with Nokia.
The two year transition will be used to try to secure other viable alternative suppliers which could be used in the full fibre network.
The US has long urged its allies not use Huawei technology because of national security concerns – concerns which the firm has always rejected.
New sanctions imposed by the White House stop Huawei from using US technology in its 5G equipment.
Mr Dowden told MPs that the National Cyber Security Centre had assessed the impact of the sanctions and as a result had ‘significantly changed their security assessment of Huawei’s presence in the UK’s 5G network’.
The Culture Secretary said the ‘uncertainty’ over the status of Huawei’s supply chain meant the UK could ‘no longer be confident it will be able to guarantee the security of future Huawei 5G equipment’.
He said the ‘best way to secure our networks is for operators to stop using new affected Huawei equipment to build the UK’s future 5G networks’.
As a result it will be illegal for telecoms operators to buy Huawei 5G equipment from the end of this year.
On the issue of then removing Huawei technology from the network, Mr Dowden said: ‘I know that honourable members have sought a commitment from the Government to remove Huawei equipment from our 5G network altogether.
‘This is why we have concluded that it is necessary and indeed prudent to commit to a timetable for the removal of Huawei equipment from our 5G network by 2027.’
Mr Dowden said the removal of Huawei from the 5G network will be ‘irreversible’ as he admitted it will impact the roll out of the technology across the UK.
He said: ‘This will delay our roll out of 5G. Our decisions in January had already set back that roll out by a year and cost up to a £1billion.
‘Today’s decision to ban the procurement of new Huawei 5G equipment from the end of this year will delay roll out by a further year and will add up to £500 million to costs.
‘Requiring operators in addition to remove Huawei equipment from their networks by 2027 will add hundreds of millions of pounds further to the cost and further delay roll out.
‘This means a cumulative delay to 5G roll out of two to three years and costs of up to £2billion. This will have real consequences for the connections on which all our constituents rely.’
The decision to exclude Huawei from the 5G network will lead to a further deterioration in relations between the UK and China, with tensions already strained because of coronavirus and a row over the imposition of a new national security law on Hong Kong.
Mr Dowden told MPs that the Government is ‘clear eyed’ on its approach to China and that ‘what we want is a modern and mature relationship with China based on mutual respect’.
Ed Brewster, a spokesman for Huawei UK, said: ‘This disappointing decision is bad news for anyone in the UK with a mobile phone. It threatens to move Britain into the digital slow lane, push up bills and deepen the digital divide.
‘Instead of “levelling up” the government is levelling down and we urge them to reconsider.
‘We remain confident that the new US restrictions would not have affected the resilience or security of the products we supply to the UK.
‘Regrettably our future in the UK has become politicised, this is about US trade policy and not security.’
Arun Bansal, president of Europe and Latin America for Ericsson said the decision ‘removes the uncertainty that was slowing down investment decisions around the deployment of 5G in the UK’.
The Government had faced fierce pressure from Tory MPs for months to rethink its decision in January to grant Huawei a role in the 5G network.
Tom Tugendhat, Tory chairman of the foreign affairs select committee, called on the Government to take the opportunity to distance itself even further from Beijing.
In a column in The Daily Telegraph, Mr Tugendhat said it was time for the UK to kick its ‘addiction to Beijing tech’.
Industry sources said yesterday the decision not to ban Huawei until Christmas left open the chance that US policy could change if President Trump fails to secure re-election in November
He said: ‘To keep power distributed and trade on the basis of law, not force, we need a new alliance. Going further than the World Trade Organisation and recognising the importance of India and Nigeria, would reinforce the interdependence of democracies against authoritarian regimes.
‘We have the innovations and size that could create a market for companies that share our values. The majority won’t be British but they’ll share our values, and that will protect us all.’
His sentiment was echoed by former Conservative leader William Hague, who wrote in the Telegraph: ‘What matters is that we should not be strategically dependent on Chinese technology for the future, and that will require building up the production of alternative companies.
‘It is not essential to rip everything out immediately – we just have to be able to maintain our own critical infrastructure for the long term.’
Lord Hague warned Beijing’s ‘ludicrous attempts to shift blame or cover up’ over the coronavirus crisis would harden opinion.
He cautioned there was currently ‘no sign’ that the US and China could find a way of defusing tensions.
‘If that continues, the Government’s retreat on Huawei will be the beginning of a very long march indeed,’ he added.