Back in January, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that Huawei
gear would be allowed in the country's 5G networks. At the time, Johnson felt that he had no choice but to go against the U.S. considering that Huawei provided the most cutting-edge
technology at a good price. But the Prime Minister was persuaded by constant pressure from America and the final blow came when the U.S. banned chip manufacturers like TSMC from delivering chips to the company. That led officials in Britain to worry that Huawei would be forced to use unproven components that might not be secure.
Huawei gear must be removed from all U.K. networks by 2027
So this morning, the prime minister announced that Huawei's networking equipment must be completely removed from the U.K. by 2027. Huawei is the global leader in networking equipment and depending on the source, it is also the number one smartphone manufacturer on the planet for the moment. But since 2012 Huawei has been deemed a national security threat in the U.S. because of its close ties to the communist Chinese government. A law in China requires the country's tech firms to gather intelligence on behalf of the government if requested to do so. The myth is that Huawei products contain a backdoor that collects data and sends it to a server in Beijing. This scenario has never been proven to be true and the firm has denied it over the years.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson's reversal on Huawei's 5G presence is now official
The announcement that the ban won't be in place until 2027 made U.K. carriers like BT, Vodafone, and Three happy because they were worried about spending billions to rip out Huawei gear from their networks a lot earlier. According to Reuters
, Britain’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Oliver Dowden said that by the end of this year, it will be illegal for companies in the U.K. to buy any 5G equipment from Huawei. But there is a price that consumers will have to pay for this decision as it delays the rollout of 5G connectivity in the nation by two to three years. Additionally, the move raises the cost of installing 5G in the market by up to $2.5 billion. Today's announcement also gives telecom firms in the U.K. two years to remove all traces of Huawei from their fixed-line fiber broadband networks.
In a statement, Secretary Dowden said, "The NCSC (National Cyber Security Centre) has now reported to ministers, that they have significantly changed their security assessment of Huawei’s presence in the U.K.’s 5G network. This has not been an easy decision, but it is the right one for the U.K. telecoms networks, for our national security and our economy, both now and indeed in the long run. By the time of the next election, we will have implemented in law an irreversible path for the complete removal of Huawei equipment from our 5G networks."
With the U.S. imploring allies not to use Huawei equipment to build out their 5G networks, Britain's original decision stunned U.S. officials. And while Australia, New Zealand, and Japan heeded the warnings from the U.S., Germany did not. Besides concerns about spying, the U.S. is also worried that if Huawei grabs the lead in 5G technology, China will become the world's technology leader for years. The next generation of wireless conductivity, 5G will deliver download data speeds up to 10 times faster than current 4G LTE signals. The faster speed and lower latency will allow new technologies and industries to be created.
Huawei panned the U.K.'s decision calling it "political" and said it was made because of U.S. trade policy and was not due to issues surrounding security. The company also stated that the decision is bad for phone users in the country. "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 'leveling up' the government is leveling 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 politicized, this is about US trade policy and not security. Over the past 20 years, Huawei has focused on building a better connected UK. As a responsible business, we will continue to support our customers as we have always done.
We will conduct a detailed review of what today’s announcement means for our business here and will work with the UK government to explain how we can continue to contribute to a better connected Britain."