UK operators banned from installing new Huawei 5G kit from September 21

Houses of Parliament
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Mobile operators will be banned from installing Huawei 5G equipment in their networks from September 2021 as part of wide-ranging measures against ‘High Risk Vendors’.

In July, the government reversed its policy following pressure from the US and banned all mobile operators from purchasing new Huawei 5G radio products after 2020 on national security grounds. Operators will also be required to remove any Huawei kit from their networks by 2027.

The new restriction on installation will appease any critics who argue that operators would seek to circumvent the ban by stockpiling equipment for future use.

Huawei UK 5G ban

MPs will debate the Telecommunications Security Bill, the legislation that will bring the new measures into law, at its second reading tomorrow. The bill will give the government powers to impose a fine of £100,000 per day for non-compliance.

“Today I am setting out a clear path for the complete removal of high risk vendors from our 5G networks,” said Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden. “This will be done through new and unprecedented powers to identify and ban telecoms equipment which poses a threat to our national security.”

The government’s decision was made despite the absence of any evidence, while Huawei denies any allegations of wrongdoing. The government itself admits it expects the ban to delay 5G rollout by up to three years and add £2 billion of additional costs to operators who fear a lack of choice will reduce innovation.

Huawei had previously expressed its hope the UK would reconsider its actions following Donald Trump’s defeat in the US election. However, this now appears not to be the case.

The timing of the Parliamentary debate conveniently coincides with the announcement last week of £250 million in public funding to aid the diversification of the UK’s telecommunications supply chain.

Samsung, NEC and Fujitsu have all been touted as potential suppliers in the past, while the government is also keen to stimulate the development of open networking technologies like Open RAN, believing the market would benefit from the innovation of startups.

Dowden confirmed that the first benefits of £50 million to be made available this year will be an OpenRAN trial in Wales, to be staged with NEC, the creation of a telecoms lab and an open network innovation centre.

“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,” he said. “Our plans will spark a wave of innovation in the design of our future mobile networks.”

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.