The UK government has confirmed that it will remove Huawei equipment from the country's 5G network by 2027 on the grounds of national security.
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden told the House of Commons on Tuesday that the UK will impose a ban on the purchase of all new 5G infrastructure from Huawei by the end of the year, with all existing equipment to be removed by 2027.
This is in-line with a warning from BT and Vodafone, which both said that they will need at least five years to remove equipment manufactured by Huawei from the UK’s networks.
Dowden said that by the next election, the UK will have implemented an "irreversible path" for the complete removal of Huawei equipment from 5G networks.
The decision, spurred by the US sanctions imposed on Huawei this year, will delay the UK's 5G rollout by up to two years, Dowden warned, at a cost of up to £2 billion.
The UK’s full-fibre broadband operators will also be given two years to “transition” away from the purchase of Huawei equipment. However, the government has no plans to remove the company from 2G, 3G, 4G, or its broadband network.
"This has not been an easy decision, but it is the right one for the UK telecoms networks, for our national security and our economy, both now and indeed in the long run," Dowden said.
The NCSC began to re-examine Huawei’s role in the UK’s 5G networks in May this year and concluded that US sanctions will have a “severe” effect on Huawei’s supply chain, meaning the Chinese company may have to use "untrusted" technology.
This comes after the NCSC advised in January that the government should allow telecoms companies to use Huawei on the peripheries of their networks. Under these initial recommendations, Huawei was restricted to supplying 35% of the hardware that connects devices and equipment to mobile phone masts.
In a statement given to IT Pro, Ed Brewster, a spokesperson for Huawei UK, said today's "disappointing" decision is "bad news for anyone in the UK with a mobile phone.
"It threatens to move Britain into the digital slow lane, push up bills and deepen the digital divide. Instead of ‘levelling up’ the government is levelling down and we urge them to reconsider. We remain confident that the new US restrictions would not have affected the resilience or security of the products we supply to the UK," he said.
"Regrettably our future in the UK has become politicized, this is about US trade policy and not security. Over the past 20 years, Huawei has focused on building a better connected UK. As a responsible business, we will continue to support our customers as we have always done.
"We will conduct a detailed review of what today’s announcement means for our business here and will work with the UK government to explain how we can continue to contribute to a better connected Britain."
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Carly Page is a freelance technology journalist, editor and copywriter specialising in cyber security, B2B, and consumer technology. She has more than a decade of experience in the industry and has written for a range of publications including Forbes, IT Pro, the Metro, TechRadar, TechCrunch, TES, and WIRED, as well as offering copywriting and consultancy services.
Prior to entering the weird and wonderful world of freelance journalism, Carly served as editor of tech tabloid The INQUIRER from 2012 and 2019. She is also a graduate of the University of Lincoln, where she earned a degree in journalism.