UK operators urged to 'consider' 5G equipment suppliers

The UK government and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has reportedly written to mobile operators urging them to ensure their suppliers for 5G network equipment are secure.

The Financial Times says the letter suggested the supply chain may be affected by an ongoing review into the security of the UK’s telecoms infrastructure launched in July, which may lead to changes in rules and could affect operators’ procurement plans.

TechRadar Pro understands letters have been shared with all major players, not just operators, in the industry and that the review is directed at the entire industry to ensure the UK’s infrastructure is secure and resilient.

UK 5G infrastructure

The newspaper says that no specific companies are named in the correspondence but speculates the use of Huawei equipment is a key consideration for the review. The company has effectively been frozen out of several markets, most notably the US, due to concerns that the company has links with the Chinese government.

Australia has banned Huawei equipment from its 5G networks, but the company is expected to play a significant part in the rollout of the technology in the UK. BT, EE and Three are among its customers in the UK, while the company has pledged to spend billions in the UK.

Any move to ban Huawei from supplying 5G equipment to UK operators could increase costs and delay rollout. However, it is also possible that the UK government simply wants a more diverse set of suppliers and encourage the use of Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung kit alongside Huawei gear.

For its part, Huawei has continually denied such allegations and its equipment is monitored by a specialist GCHQ unit. Earlier this year, the NCSC warned operators not to use equipment from ZTE because it would make this monitoring impossible and represent a threat to UK national security.

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.