Britain is banning its mobile providers from buying new 5G hardware from Huawei, following in the footsteps of its counterparts in the United States.
The British government announced today that a ban on Huawei 5G equipment will go into effect after December 31, 2020, and they must also remove all aspects of the Chinese company’s hardware from their networks by 2027.
5G technology is designed to offer much faster speeds than existing 4G networks with much greater bandwidth, allowing for higher quality video streams, online gaming, and other real-time operations — but it’s expensive, and the Chinese firm offers the technology at a much lower cost than its competitors.
The move follows sanctions on China imposed by the United States, which highlighted grave concerns over the risk the company’s hardware poses to national security.
In February, the tech giant was found to reportedly have backdoor access to carrier equipment for over a decade, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The details were disclosed to both the UK and Germany in late 2019 after the US found backdoor access in Huawei’s 4G equipment. Designed to be accessible by Huawei in China, the hardware has the capability to covertly access sensitive personal information sent over its systems. These capabilities were found in equipment designed for law enforcement use like base stations, antennas, and switches.
National security advisor Robert O’Brien described Huawei’s cheaply priced hardware as too “tempting of a gift to turn down” for countries, that came with the price of China having full, covert access to their network.
UK Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden informed the House of Commons of the decision, which he says was not an easy one to make. He stated that the cumulative cost of banning Huawei from the nation’s 5G service providers, along with earlier restrictions, amounted to £2 billion.
"This has not been an easy decision, but it is the right one for the UK telecoms networks, for our national security and our economy, both now and indeed in the long run," he said, per the BBC.
The move also includes advisory to internet service providers from using Huawei’s hardware in its fibre-optic broadband network within the next two years. It does not however affect Huawei’s ability to sell smartphones in the UK.
For now, the only standing competitor to offer alternative equipment is Nokia, which the UK risks becoming dependent upon in its pledge to offer gigabit speeds to everyone in by 2025.
Huawei denies any wrongdoing, calling it “bad news for anyone in the UK with a mobile phone.” The company also condemned the UK for threatening “to move Britain into the digital slow lane, push up bills and deepen the digital divide.”