Government to stop mobile operators installing stockpiled Huawei 5G equipment from September 2021, after purchase ban of new kit
The Government continues to tighten its policy regarding the removal of ‘high-risk vendors’ from British 5G networks.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced a new “roadmap for the removal of high risk vendors from UK telecoms networks, as the Telecommunications Security Bill has its second parliamentary reading.”
Last week it emerged that government’s Telecommunications Security Bill will place new legal duties on telecoms firms to increase the security of the UK’s telecoms network.
The Bill will also provide new powers for government to remove high risk vendors such as Huawei; coupled with giving Ofcom new responsibilities to monitor telecoms operators’ security.
And failure to follow these new rules on high risk vendors will result in stiff financial penalties, with carriers possibly “facing heavy fines of up to ten percent of turnover or, in the case of a continuing contravention, £100,000 per day”.
It should be remembered that Prime Minister Boris Johnson in July had ordered all Huawei equipment to be purged from Britain’s 5G network by 2027, over national security concerns.
That order also prevents operators from purchasing any new Huawei equipment from the end of 2020.
But there was concerns that vendors would rush out and stockpile Huawei equipment before the 31 December 2020 cut-off date, in order to allow them to continuing installing Huawei kit until the end of 2027.
Now the Telecommunications Security Bill will stop telcom providers from installing Huawei 5G equipment from the end of September 2021.
“The September date is an important milestone in the path mobile operators must take to get to zero Huawei in 5G networks,” said the government.
It also published a new 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy outlining the Government’s approach to building a resilient, open and sustainable supply chain.
“This will tackle the issues of over-reliance on vendors and pave the way for better connectivity to improve people’s lives with lightning fast connections speeds and revolutionary data carrying capacity,” said the government.
“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.”
“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,” said Dowden. “Our plans will spark a wave of innovation in the design of our future mobile networks.”
As part of the government’s ‘Diversification Strategy’, the government said it would spend an initial £250 million to begin work to “create a more diverse, competitive, and innovative supply market for telecoms.”
This includes funding a new Open RAN trial with Japanese telecoms vendor NEC.
Open RAN (or open radio access networks) it should be remembered is designed to help mobile operators speed up 5G network development through its open architecture.
“The NEC NeutrORAN project will be based in Wales and will aim to see live 5G Open RAN within the UK in 2021, testing solutions to deploy 5G networks in the most cost effective, innovative and secure way,” the government said.
In addition, the government will establish “a world-class National Telecoms Lab,” which is being touted as “a secure research facility that will bring together operators, existing and new suppliers, academia and the government to create representative networks in which to research and test new ways of increasing security and interoperability.”
Vodafone confirmed it is committing 2,600 mobile sites to OpenRAN technology.
Huawei for its part has always denied it poses a national security risk.
It cited recent research from Oxford Economics, which revealed the scale of Huawei’s contribution to the United Kingdom economy.
That research found that Huawei contributed £3.3bn to UK GDP in 2019 alone, and helped support 51,000 British jobs through its economic activity last year.