The UK government has issued formal legal notices to telecom operators directing them to phase out Huawei technology from the country’s 5G networks by the end of 2027, although some deadlines appear to have been adjusted after operators claimed they needed more time .
This latest move follows the government’s decision in 2020 to ban the purchase of Huawei devices for network use, after industry complaints it was delaying the rollout of 5G technology across the country and driving costs into the country would soar.
A legal document known as Designated Vendor Direction [PDF] was sent to 35 telecom operators, according to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). This puts the government’s previous position of removing Huawei devices from UK networks on an official legal footing, its announcement reads.
Meanwhile, Huawei was served with a designation notice informing it that the company has been classified as a high-risk 5G network equipment and service provider. The document lays out all the reasons why the government considers Huawei to be a national security risk.
According to DCMS, the decision is based on guidance from the National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) that the security of Huawei devices used in cellular base stations and switchboards “can no longer be managed due to the impact of US sanctions on its supply chain .”
It is also widely acknowledged that the UK government is under continued political pressure from the US to ban Huawei devices from its telecom networks because it is a Chinese company.
“Society is increasingly relying on telecommunications, and the NCSC, government and industry partners are working closely to ensure these networks are secure and resilient over the long term,” said NCSC Technical Director Dr. Ian Levy, in a statement.
The notice to carriers immediately bans the installation of new Huawei devices on 5G networks and calls on them to phase out all Huawei devices from 5G networks by the end of 2027, both of which have already been expected.
However, previous guidelines from DCMS had stipulated that telecom operators had to stop using Huawei equipment on their core networks after January 28, 2023. This has now been extended to December 31, 2023.
A previous requirement to limit Huawei’s presence to 35 percent of the full fiber access network had also set a deadline of January 28, 2023, which has now been extended to October 31, 2023.
According to DCMS, these changes were made at the behest of “a small number of operators” for whom the deadlines related to the core network and 35 percent of the full fiber access network “could have resulted in network outages and disruption for customers.”
A BT spokesman confirmed to us that it was one of the operators who had requested a longer time frame for core compliance, but denied that this would have resulted in network outages.
Instead, the company said it needed to ensure proper processes were being followed to ensure its network’s overall resilience, and this has been delayed during the pandemic.
In an official statement, BT said that “the release of the final Designated Vendor Direction provides important clarity on the process and timelines for the removal of Huawei equipment from UK telecoms networks”.
Additional requirements for operators include removing Huawei devices from sites significant to national security by January 28, 2023, and not installing Huawei devices affected by US sanctions on full-fiber networks.
Despite the impact of the pandemic, 5G network rollout is progressing steadily, according to Kester Mann, an analyst at CCS Insight.
“With the long-term deadline of removing all Huawei devices from 5G networks by 2027 still in effect, today’s announcement is likely to have minimal impact on the overall deployment of 5G networks in the UK,” he told us.
Telecoms analyst Paolo Pescatore of PP Foresight said the development was widely expected but still remains a major blow to Huawei.
“The UK Government is taking a firm stance and sticking to the original deadline. This will put pressure on some telecom companies that have relied on Huawei kits more than others,” he said.
A Huawei spokesman said The registry that the company was very disappointed by the British government’s move and saw it as a politically motivated decision.
“We’ve worked with our partner networks for the past 20 years and have been rigorously scrutinized for security and nothing malicious has ever been found,” the spokesman said.
According to DCMS, Ofcom will monitor and enforce the new regulations and have the power to carry out inspections of operators’ premises to ensure they are being complied with. If they fail to do so, the regulator can impose fines of up to 10 per cent of a company’s turnover, or £100,000 a day in the event of a continued breach, it said.
Meanwhile, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is reportedly preparing its own ban on all sales of telecom kits from Huawei and another Chinese vendor, ZTE.
It is claimed that this would be the first time the FCC has halted the sale of devices on national security grounds; Previously, US companies had been barred from using federal funds to buy equipment from the two suppliers. ®
https://www.theregister.com/2022/10/13/uk_telcos_huawei_ban/ British telcos required by law to remove Huawei devices • The Register