5G ban will “deepen the digital divide” says Huawei

Huawei accuses the government of “levelling down” after ban on supplying 5G equipment to the UK’s mobile network operators

Posted 15 July 2020 by Christine Horton

The news that Huawei has been banned from supplying 5G equipment to the UK’s mobile network operators “threatens to move Britain into the digital slow lane”, according to the Chinese tech giant.

Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden told the House of Commons yesterday that Huawei can no longer sell 5G equipment after 31 December. They must also remove all the vendor’s 5G kit from their networks by 2027.

It follows sanctions imposed by the US, which claims the firm poses a national security threat, which Huawei denies.

In a statement, Huawei UK spokesperson Ed Brewster, said the “disappointing” decision was “bad news for anyone in the UK with a mobile phone.

“It threatens to move Britain into the digital slow lane, push up bills and deepen the digital divide. Instead of ‘levelling up’ the government is levelling down and we urge them to reconsider. We remain confident that the new US restrictions would not have affected the resilience or security of the products we supply to the UK.”

Brewster said Huawei’s future in the UK has become politicised, and the decision was “about US trade policy and not security.”

He said the firm will conduct a detailed review of what the announcement means for its business in the UK and will work with the “government to explain how we can continue to contribute to a better connected Britain.”

Additional costs

Mr Dowden said the move would delay the country’s 5G rollout by a year. He added that the cumulative cost of this, and earlier restrictions announced against Huawei earlier in the year, would be up to £2 billion.

Huawei's Ed Brewster
Huawei’s Ed Brewster

“Although the government isn’t stripping Huawei’s equipment straight away, the phased approach will have a marked effect on the telecoms industry, potentially costing billions because a lot of the major UK operators such as BT and Vodafone are already using its equipment not just for 5G but previous generation networks as well,” Michael Downs, director of telecoms security at Positive Technologies.

“Long term, the decision to exclude Huawei cannot be solved with a solution as idealistically simple as just swapping it for an alternative vendor immediately.

“There is also the additional cost of delaying deployments, as companies have already gone through the process of testing 5G equipment from Huawei. This whole process – including testing – will have to be started all over again. This will mean a more expensive network for the UK and a delay that could result in its national infrastructure being inferior compared to other countries.”