05 August 2020

The majority of IT professionals (53%) do not believe Huawei’s claim that the UK’s decision to ban the tech giant from 5G will 'move Britain into the digital slow lane, push up bills and deepen the digital divide', according to a new survey.

However, over a quarter (28%) did agree with the Chinese telecoms firms’ warning that the UK’s tech development will stall without it, with 19% remaining neutral, according to the poll by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT.

Nearly half (48%) believe the government’s 2027 target for removal of Huawei from our infrastructure is feasible; 27% think stripping out by this date is not possible and a quarter are undecided.

Just over half (51%) think that Huawei's removal from the network will make the UK safer. Close to a third (31%) feel the UK will be no safer with Huawei gone and 19% are undecided.

Only 31% are concerned that the consequences of Huawei's removal will damage the UK’s IT industry. This compares with 48% who are not concerned, and 20% who are neutral.

When it comes to building 5G equipment, only 51% feel that a completely trustworthy supply and manufacturing chain is achievable. 28% think it is not achievable with the rest being neutral.

Nearly 3,000 IT professionals responded to the members’ survey launched by the professional body for the industry shortly after the government announced the ban in July. It said Huawei should be removed from the UK’s 5G networks by the end of 2027. The measures followed advice from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) on the impact of US sanctions. Ahead of this there will be a total ban on the purchase of any new Huawei 5G apparatus after 31 December 2020.

Ed Brewster, a spokesperson for Huawei UK, argued that the ban would ‘move Britain into the digital slow lane, push up bills and deepen the digital divide.’

Dr Bill Mitchell OBE, Director of Policy at BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT said: “Huawei’s claim that the UK will somehow be thrown into a dark age without them looks like hubris, according to most IT professionals.

“While our survey results show broad support for the government’s decision, most experts also feel that no 5G infrastructure can be guaranteed as totally trustworthy. The government’s challenge now is to build on public backing for the Huawei decision, by ensuring standards of high competence, ethics and trust throughout the tech industries, as it develops the alternatives.

“The UK’s focus must be on accelerating the digitisation of the economy, including promoting Digital Apprenticeships and T-Levels, investing in digital first public services, and dealing with the digital divide, if we are to boost social and economic renewal after COVID-19 and Brexit.

“This will require intelligent planning for how the UK builds 5G capability to underpin digital transformation - without Huawei’s involvement and without damaging economic growth.”

View the full survey results

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