The UK bans Huawei from its 5G Network
Huwaei excluded from UK’s 5G Network
British mobile carriers warn against removing Huawei citing ‘blackouts’
Is Huawei’s ban from Britain’s 5G network in favour of national security?
UK newspapers have been flooded with headlines about Huawei’s’ ban from involvement in Great Britain’s 5G Telecom sector.
To gain a better insight into Huawei’s exit from the UK’s telecommunication sector, let us travel back in time and gain an understanding of Huawei’s entry into the UK’s telecom sector.
From the very start, Huawei’s involvement in the UK telecom sector has been subject to not just national concern but also international scrutiny.
Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s telecom sector began in 2005 with the upgrade work of erstwhile British Telecom (BT’s) telecom network. Huawei was awarded the upgrade contract of BT networks for a whopping $17 billion.
According to sources, though BT had informed the UK government of Huawei’s interest in the upgrade contract, BT failed to inform the government about the consequences of providing unregulated access to critical telecommunication infrastructure.
Almost seven years after the contract was granted, the David Cameron government realized that access to telecom networks could lead to a serious threat to not only private and civilian privacy but also public and military privacy.
The problem lay within the “core switches” installed by Huawei. BT noticed that these “core switches” may become a medium of leaking information to unknown sources. In 2011, BT and British government security chiefs travelled to Huawei’s Chinese HQ in Shenzhen to inform them about these intrinsic problems. Though the extent of the threat wasn’t made public, BT had to eventually replace the vulnerable “core switches”.
In January 2020, the British government had decided to put a cap of 35% on the use of Huawei’s equipment for the development of the 5G network in the UK. The Boris Johnson government barred the use of its equipment in “core” parts of the equipment which includes fields like military, nuclear, and intelligence citing Huawei as a “high-risk supplier”.
According to the government, one of the reasons for choosing Huawei was due to:
On 14th July 2020, in a major reversal to its January policy, the British government recently announced a complete ban on the purchase of 5G equipment from the Chinese tech mammoth Huawei.
This policy reversal will be seen as a major diplomatic victory for the Trump regime. On the other hand, it also means an escalating tiff between the Dragon and the Western world. Add to that, a delay and rising costs for British 5G technology.
A complete ban on Huawei equipment: The original cap of 35% on Huawei equipment has now changed to a complete ban on Huawei equipment. This means that the UK’s mobile providers like Vodafone, Three, and EE will not be able to buy any new Huawei 5G equipment after 31st December 2020.
Removal of 5G Kit: With the new policy change that was recently introduced, British mobile service providers will need to remove all Huawei’s 5G kit from their networks by 2027.
Essentially, this means that British service providers shall have to source their technical requirements for 5G technology from other sources.
Broadband networks: Broadband providers in the UK shall be allowed a two year transition period to change from new Huawei equipment.
Existing 2G/3G/4G: Huawei has been providing 2G, 3G, and 4G networks in the UK for the last two decades. The new policy changes do not affect these networks and users of these networks will have no impact on them.
Existing phones: At the moment, the current change in policy will not affect the working of existing Huawei phones, laptops, and tablets in the UK. However, users may face problems using their devices as Huawei devices as preloaded Google apps are not allowed on them.
Duopoly: With Huawei exiting Britain’s telecom market, the UK radio equipment is now a duopoly of the existing two companies – Ericsson and Nokia.
Delay in 5G Technology: The change in policy will lead to a delay in rolling out 5G technology in the UK. Mobile service providers are already complaining that the new policy may lead to delays of more than a couple of years.
Additional cost: The delay in the rollout coupled with looking for new service providers is expected to have an extra cost of about £2 billion to UK companies.
UK-China relations: The policy reversal shall hurt Great Britain’s trade relations with China. In recent years, bilateral trade with China was growing steadily and China was the UK’s 3rd largest trade partner. It may also have a negative effect on Chinese foreign investment in the UK which was more than $8 billion in 2019 and growing rapidly.
Did the Boris Johnson government jeopardize a long term relationship with China while riding on US pressure? Only time will tell.
The many different trade and aid policies being pursued by China globally have been heavily criticised but can developing countries become more independent or will China’s policy reform?