UK Bans Huawei from 5G Network

Taking the lead from the U.S., the UK government has decided to ban Huawei from 5G networks starting after Dec. 31. 

The UK had initially signaled it might try to find a compromise position that allowed Huawei tech in the edges of the network, but that ultimately did not fly.  

“By the time of the next election we will have implemented in law an irreversible path for the complete removal of Huawei equipment from our 5G networks," said Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden in a statement to the House of Commons.  

The UK government announced the crackdown Tuesday (July 14), saying it came after a technical review by the National Cyber Security Centre that was prompted by U.S. sanctions. 

The U.S. has banned Huawei tech from government contracts, will not allow Universal Service Fund broadband subsidy money to go to carriers who would use Huawei tech in their buildouts, is looking to rip and replace it from current networks, and has put the company on a list that prevents the importation of U.S. chips and other tech to the Chinese telecom. 

It is that last that helped turn the tide. Given that the U.S. move cut off Huawei's access to products based on U.S. chips, the UK government, led by PM Boris Johnson, concluded that that made it "impossible to continue to guarantee the security of Huawei equipment in the future." 

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The problem is what the U.S. and now UK see as too close ties to the Communist Chinese government, which they see as a big security risk as their 5G, internet of everything wireless broadband networks are being built out. 

The sweeping new restrictions are: 

1. Buying new Huawei 5G equipment banned after 31 December 2020; 

2. All Huawei equipment to be removed from 5G networks by end of 2027; and 

3. Existing ban on Huawei from most sensitive ‘core’ parts of 5G network remains. 

Mike Rogers, chairman of 5G Action Now, has been pushing for the ban, including testifying before a Parliament subcommittee. Rogers, former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, called the decision a crucial protection for British citizen's data.  

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"The aggressive use of citizens’ data by the Chinese Communist Party to restrict movement and speech—something they are doing in mainland China and will do in Hong Kong—is not something that should be imported anywhere," he said. "Using Huawei gear would do just that. Other countries should see this decision as a signal as to just how serious the security threat posed by Huawei gear really is.”  

“I welcome these developments in the UK and reiterate my hope that the Trump Administration will begin to engage multilaterally with like-minded allies on promoting secure and competitively-priced alternatives to Huawei equipment," said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "My bipartisan legislation, the United Strategic Allied Telecommunications Act, would be a major step in the right direction and I hope to see it included, fully funded, in the eventual defense authorization act.” 

A similar bill, the Utilizing Strategic Allied Telecommunications Act of 2020, is being marked up in the Energy & Commerce Committee Wednesday (July 15).

“I’m pleased to see our partners in the United Kingdom take action to address the security concerns they have identified with allowing equipment from Huawei into 5G networks," said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. "There is an overwhelming consensus that Huawei is in a position to exploit network vulnerabilities and compromise critical communications infrastructure for the benefit of the Chinese Communist Party. The United Kingdom has taken a necessary step to safeguard its national security as it builds out advanced networks.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.