Huawei to be stripped from UK 5G network

Decision by UK government follows intense pressure from US government over national security concerns

Digital minister Oliver Dowden announces plan to strip Huawei from the UK 5G network. EPA
Digital minister Oliver Dowden announces plan to strip Huawei from the UK 5G network. EPA

The UK government bowed to US pressure on Tuesday and announced plans to remove gear made by Chinese telecoms giant Huawei from its 5G network.

MPs said the government made a “screeching u-turn” that further threatened its relations with China after a bitter dispute over democratic rights in Hong Kong and tensions over the treatment of ethnic Uighurs.

Beijing warned of reprisals, but the decision was a victory for US President Donald Trump, whose administration imposed sanctions on Huawei in May.

The US had put significant pressure on the government of Boris Johnson after it announced a deal earlier this year that would have allowed Huawei equipment to be involved in the country’s rollout of 5G, albeit with a cap. The US had warned that the deal put intelligence sharing at risk.

Britain’s minister of digital, culture, media and sport, Oliver Dowden, said on Tuesday that buying new 5G Huawei equipment would be banned from 2021.

All Huawei equipment would be removed from the network by the end of 2027. The decision will cost the UK some £2 billion and delay the rollout of 5G by two to three years, said officials.

He said the decision followed analysis by UK cyber security experts of the effect of the US sanctions on Huawei. “We can no longer rely on Huawei equipment,” he told MPs.

The sanctions prevent US-made machinery or software from producing computer chips for the Chinese company.

Australia and New Zealand – part of an intelligence-sharing network that includes the UK, US and Canada – came out against Huawei because of national security concerns.

The telecoms company said that the decision placed the UK in the “digital slow lane” and urged the government to reconsider its decision. It said the move was about US trade policy – not national security.

The opposition Labour Party's spokeswoman on communications issues, Chi Omwurah, sad the decision would have a dire impact on the future.

“This is a car crash for our digital economy, but one that could have been visible from space," she said.

Updated: July 14, 2020 06:03 PM

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