Telecoms u-turn

Huawei 5G ban delves deep into UK telco network


Huawei will be banned from 5G

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has banned Huawei from Britain’s 5G network in a move that risks intensifying international tensions with China and disrupting the roll-out of the technology.

British mobile operators have been given until 2027 to remove all Huawei equipment from UK 5G networks.

The National Security Council, chaired by Mr Johnson, met this morning to rubber-stamp the decision before Media Secretary Oliver Dowden announced the decision to the House of Commons.

The controversial decision may have a knock-on effect on British workers. The Chinese firm is said to a UK workforce of 1,600 people, and has research centres in Edinburgh, Bristol, Cambridge and Ipswich.

It is not clear whether Huawei will press ahead with construction of its $1.2 billion research facility in Cambridgeshire.

Most telecoms providers in the UK, such as EE (BT), O2 and Vodafone, have already invested billions of pounds in their core infrastructure and 4G technology using products from the Chinese provider, one of three manufacturers of 5G products globally. The others are Nokia (Finnish), and Ericsson (Swedish) .

In January Mr Johnson granted Huawei a limited role in 5G, restricting its market share to 35% but allowing the Chinese firm to remain a part of the non-core elements of the network.

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The US has claimed that Huawei represents a security risk and has threatened sanctions against the UK if it went ahead with the deal.

Huawei’s 5G technology is the most advanced and ready to be deployed. Huawei is at least two years ahead in the technology field and is also a financially much more stable company than its rivals, Nokia and Ericsson which are reliant on Chinese component supply chains to manufacture their 5G products.

The industry body MobileUK said banning Huawei would cost £7bn and delay Britain’s 5G network by 24 months.

The current state of affairs will be looked on with dismay by those who see it as another example of Britain surrendering a world-leading position.

Until 30 years ago Britain was second only to the US in pioneering telecommunications technology with a number of global leaders such as Ferranti, GEC, Marconi, Plessey, Racal, and STC. Successive UK governments allowed them to be acquired by overseas rivals.

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