14 July 2020

The government has announced a ban on Huawei’s involvement in the development of the UK’s 5G network.

Back in January, the government announced Huawei could play a limited role in the 5G network. However, it has now stated that no new equipment can be installed in the network as from 2021.

Experts have warned that removing Huawei kit from the 5G network could take between five to seven years, while removing it from the UK’s entire telecoms network could take a decade. China is building their 5G network as “Stand Alone”, whereas in the UK 5G is built on top of existing 4G, 3G and Broadband infrastructures. The extent of disruption caused by removing Huawei kit will depend on the depth of removal required. If Huawei equipment is removed from the entire supporting infrastructure that will mean rebuilding datacentres and upgrading the fibre broadband networks right out to the green cabinets in our streets. All of which would cause massive disruption.

Dr Bill Mitchell OBE, Director of Policy at BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT said: “We’ve become over-reliant on a single foreign supplier for critical infrastructure, which left us stuck between a rock and a hard place when the situation turned political. We need an informed debate about the merits of developing our own capability and how we go about that or ensuring in future there is a diverse supply chain that is resilient to geopolitical tensions.

We also now have to be ruthlessly focused on accelerating the vitally important digitisation of the economy and our public services to make sure the UK recovers from COVID-19 as fast as possible. That needs a clear vision of how the UK will build 5G capability to underpin digital transformation without Huawei and without damaging national growth.”

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