UK mobile phone providers are prohibited from purchasing new Huawei 5G equipment after December 31, and they must also remove all Chinese company 5G kits from their networks by 2027.
Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden has informed the House of Commons of his decision.
It follows sanctions imposed by Washington, which claims the company poses a threat to national security – something Huawei denies.
Dowden said the move would delay 5G deployment in the country by a year.
“It was not an easy decision, but it is the right one for British telecommunications networks, for our national security and our economy, both now and in the long term,” he said.
Since U.S. sanctions only affect future equipment, the government does not believe there is a security rationale for removing the 2G, 3G and 4G equipment provided by Huawei.
New restrictions are also applied to the use of the company’s broadband kit.
The government wants operators to “move away” from the purchase of new Huawei equipment for use in the full fiber network.
Dowden said he expected this to happen within two years.
He explained that additional time was planned for broadband to avoid the UK becoming dependent on Nokia as the sole supplier of certain equipment.
The UK last examined Huawei’s role in its telecommunications infrastructure in January, when it was decided to let the company remain a supplier, but capped its market share.
But in May, the United States introduced new sanctions designed to disrupt Huawei’s ability to make its own chips.
This led security officials to conclude that they could no longer ensure the security of its products if the company were to start sourcing chips from third parties for use in its equipment.
The Minister cited a review by the National Cybersecurity Center of the GCHQ as being the motivation for the changes.
However, other political considerations also came into play, including the United Kingdom’s desire to conclude a trade agreement with the United States and growing tensions with China over its management of the coronavirus epidemic and its treatment of Hong Kong.
Huawei claims it employs around 1,600 people in the UK and claims to be one of Britain’s largest sources of investment from China.
The company – whose shares are not listed on the stock exchange – does not provide a regional breakdown of its profits. But on Monday, it announced a 13% increase in sales for the first half of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, for a total of 454 billion yuan (64.8 billion dollars; 51.3 billion pounds). sterling).
The United Kingdom will have represented a fraction of it. The British head of the company recently noted that Huawei has not deployed a total of 20,000 base stations in the UK so far, but plans to deliver a total of 500,000 worldwide this year.
Nevertheless, what the firm fears and Washington hopes that other countries will now follow the example of Westminster with their own bans.
Shortly before the announcement, Sky News revealed that Lord Browne, British president of Huawei and former managing director of BP, would leave the Chinese company before the expiration of his mandate. He indicated that he had given his opinion a few days ago and that he would officially withdraw in September.
Lord Browne had led efforts to improve the image of the company in the UK and had attempted to prevent a ban.
“He has been at the heart of our engagement here for 20 years, and we thank him for his valuable contribution,” said Huawei, confirming the report.
Huawei’s research bases in the UK
One of the consequences of Huawei’s refusal is that it could lead the company to rethink its research and development investments in the country.
The company has sponsored work at several universities, including Imperial College, London, Southampton and Surrey.
In addition, it operates its own research centers employing a total of 400 people in:
- Edin Bourg
The company also recently obtained planning permission to build a new billion-pound research center in Sawston, a large village south of Cambridge. He said the development would create hundreds of additional jobs.
But an expert said the new restrictions may not mean that the project will be abandoned.
“The Cambridge research center has taken many years to plan and may well be its future supplier of important technologies to the global supply chain, so Huawei may want to keep it if it is authorized,” said Emily. Taylor of Chatham House. think tank.
Where is the Huawei kit used in the UK?
Mobile networks can be divided into two parts: the core and the radio access network (Ran).
The nucleus is compared to the brain and performs the most sensitive operations, including authenticating user identities and ensuring that calls are sent to the correct radio tower to connect to another person’s phone.
The Ran includes the base stations and antennas used to provide a link between the individual mobile devices and the core. Insiders sometimes describe this as the “innovative but stupid” part of the network.
BT’s EE mobile network includes Huawei at the heart of its 4G and 5G networks, but the company is in the process of replacing it with Ericsson products, and has promised to do so by the end of 2023.
Otherwise, the main UK mobile phone providers only use Huawei in the Ran, then always as part of a mix with at least one other provider:
- EE will provide 2G, 4G and 5G
- Vodafone features 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G
- Three to provide 4G and 5G
- O2 will supply 5G at a relatively small number of sites in London, where it has tested the equipment before choosing to go with other suppliers elsewhere
Huawei also provides broadband equipment to BT’s Openreach division, which owns the infrastructure used by other Internet service providers (ISPs), including Plusnet, Sky and TalkTalk.
Today, the focus is on deploying fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) connections, which offer the fastest speeds and are essential to delivering the government’s commitment in “gigabit for all” 2025.
In this case, Openreach uses the Huawei kit at what it calls the “head end” – a gateway into local telephone exchanges that converts electrical signals to and from those based on light, and ensures that the Each customer’s data is sent to the appropriate ISP.
Many people still get their Internet through slower connections, which are routed through intermediate street cabinets.
About 70,000 of these cabinets contain the Huawei kit, and the data also travels through more Chinese company products in local exchanges.
Openreach does not, however, use Huawei’s equipment in its core.
Elsewhere, CityFibre – which manages its own smaller fiber networks – uses some Huawei equipment as a legacy of an acquisition, but intends to remove it by mid-2021.
Virgin Media does not use Huawei equipment within its broadband network.
But it uses it to provide telephone services, both for landline calls over the Internet and to provide mobile phone subscriptions.
Other virtual mobile network operators (MVNOs) – including Sky Mobile and GiffGaff – also use Huawei’s equipment.
It is effectively located between each MVNO and the mobile network whose infrastructure is used, and helps calculate customer invoices, among other IT services.