The ban on the use of Huawei equipment in the UK’s 5G infrastructure could be brought forward from 2027, according to the Commons Defence Committee, which found there was “clear evidence of collusion between Huawei and the Chinese state.”
The Committee’s inquiry said financial support from the Chinese government had allowed Huawei to aggressively compete in the telecoms infrastructure market and that it had worked with Beijing on intelligence activities.
Huawei has persistently denied any links with the state or any allegations of wrongdoing has once again refuted such allegations.
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“This report lacks credibility, as it is built on opinion rather than fact," a spokesperson told TechRadar Pro. "We’re sure people will see through these accusations of collusion and remember instead what Huawei has delivered for Britain over the past 20 years.”
The company is a major supplier of all four mobile operators and had hoped to play a critical role in the rollout of 5G in the UK. However new sanctions imposed by the US led the British government to conclude the security risks of Huawei’s products could not be adequately managed.
New rules prohibit operators from purchasing the company’s 5G networking gear from 2021 and obligate them to remove all Huawei 5G kit already installed by 2027. This schedule was designed to minimise the associated costs and disruption for operators who had warned that an accelerated timetable could cause outages if they were unable to source alternatives.
MPs supported the new regulations and reiterated their belief that commercial considerations should not take precedence over issues of national security. Should relations with China deteriorate, or should pressure from allies like the US increase, then the government should bring forward the deadline to 2025 and compensate operators for the inconvenience.
Other recommendations include measures to support greater diversity in the supply chain, such as encouraging Samsung, NEC and OpenRAN vendors to enter the UK market, and greater scrutiny of equipment from all manufacturers – not just Huawei.
“We must not surrender our national security for the sake of short-term technological development,” said Tobias Ellwood, Chair of the Defence Committee. “This is a false and wholly unnecessary trade off.
“The Government’s decision earlier this year was a step in the right direction. However, current regulations are porous and legislation lacks teeth, continuing to allow telecoms companies to prioritise profit over the public and the nations’ security.
“The Government must ensure that legislation is airtight, leaving no room for companies to slip through the cracks. Enacting the Telecoms Security Bill by the end of this year is imperative, as this will bring regulations up to date."
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Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.