UK Government Consults on Plans to Restrict Huawei’s Involvement in Telecoms Networks

The UK government has launched a consultation to control the involvement of Chinese tech firm Huawei in the country’s infrastructure.

The proposed measures are designed to ensure the UK’s mobile networks remain safe and secure as 5G technology becomes increasingly embedded in national infrastructure, industries and daily lives.

The four-week consultation will be conducted with public communication providers and Huawei, as the proposed designated vendor. This is part of the process of creating legal mechanisms to enforce the government’s plan to restrict Huawei’s involvement in UK telecoms networks amid the rollout of 5G technology.

In July 2020, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered Huawei equipment to be removed completely from Britain’s 5G network by 2027 over national security concerns. This decision was made after the US imposed sanctions forcing Huawei to use its own microchips, with the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) advising ministers that they could no longer guarantee that the risk would be reduced. While Huawei is a private company, it is believed to have close ties to the ruling Communist Party of China, leading to fears it may assist the Chinese government with intelligence gathering.

Under the Telecommunications Act 2021, the UK government is required to consult with industry on its proposed measures to bring in controls on Huawei. These consultations will discuss proposals for a ‘designated vendor direction,’ which sets out the rules public telecoms providers need to follow to use Huawei equipment and services, and a ‘designation notice,’ which categorizes Huawei as a high-risk vendor.

Subject to consultation, the new direction will legally require UK telecoms providers to:

  • Remove all Huawei equipment from 5G networks by the end of 2027.
  • Not install Huawei equipment in 5G networks, effective immediately upon the issuing of the final direction.
  • Not install sanctions-affected Huawei equipment in full-fiber networks, effective immediately upon the issuing of the direction. This includes any equipment for which the supply chain or manufacturing process has been altered due to the impact of US sanctions.
  • Reduce the share of Huawei equipment to 35% of the full fiber and 5G access (i.e., non-core) networks by July 31 2023, six months later than previously announced due to the difficulties providers have faced during the pandemic.
  • Remove Huawei high data rate intra-core and inter-operator transmission equipment – hardware that sends data across a network without processing it – from all networks by December 31 2025.

Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries commented: “The government is committed to ensuring the security and resilience of our phone and internet networks. Last year we brought in new laws to protect UK infrastructure from high-risk vendors and issue tough sanctions on providers which fall short of our high security standards. This consultation marks the next step in removing the risks posed by Huawei.”

Responding to the government's announcement, a Huawei spokesperson said: “We note the government’s consultation and will continue to support our UK customers with our network equipment, which is recognized as being among the most secure and trusted in the world.

"Political pressures have already forced the government to exclude Huawei from 5G, delaying its rollout by several years. These same pressures will jeopardise the rollout of fibre broadband, unnecessarily pushing up costs for businesses and families.

"The country has the right to expect decisions to be made based on facts rather than unfounded security concerns.”

What’s Hot on Infosecurity Magazine?