Huawei 5G kit should not be installed from next year

2 December 2020   By Dr Lucy Brown, Editor

Telecommunications companies must stop installing new Huawei kit in the UK 5G network by September 2021.

The Government decision closes a loophole where companies could stockpile Huawei equipment bought this year for installation before the full ban comes into force in 2027.

Under previous policy announcements, companies will not be able to procure new 5G kit after 31 December 2020.

The Government also confirmed there will be a 35% limit on the use of Huawei equipment in fibre to the premises (FTTP) and similar networks from 2023.

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Unexpected announcement

Telecommunications companies have been working towards a deadline of 2027 to remove all Huawei equipment in their 5G networks, aware they would be unable to buy any further equipment from Huawei after 31 December 2020.

Until now, no information had been given about whether companies were expected to stop installing Huawei equipment at any point before 2027, but this has now been clarified.

No new Huawei kit must be installed on the 5G mobile network after 30 September 2021, unless it involves directly maintaining Huawei equipment installed before that date.

So, any equipment telecoms companies might have been stockpiling to enable them to continue installing Huawei kit until closer to the 2027 deadline will have to be used by September 2021.

Telecoms companies have already begun working with new partners to replace Huawei, with BT choosing both Nokia and Ericsson to provide their new 5G equipment and replace their Huawei kit before the deadline.

The Government say that, while the directive to stop installing Huawei equipment was implicit, they have decided to make it more explicit after discussions with the industry and clearance through the National Security Council (NSC).

2027 ban

In July, the Government confirmed Huawei equipment would be banned from the UK's 5G network by 2027.

This change in direction occurred just seven months after companies had been given the green light to install Huawei equipment in no more than 35% of non-core 5G networks and was mainly due to changes in American policy on Huawei.

The ongoing trade dispute between the US and Huawei means their equipment can no longer use American technology.

This impacts the security and reliability of Huawei technology because the Government can no longer be certain of the quality of the equipment.

So, while it's essentially separate to any debate about spying and backdoor access into Huawei equipment, it's tangentially connected as President Trump first banned companies from working with Huawei on national security grounds in May 2019.

Cutting Huawei out of the network is also expected to slow down the rollout of 5G across the UK.

Of the four UK mobile networks, only O2 made the choice originally to choose different suppliers, and even they have some shared sites with Vodafone.

EE, Vodafone and Three all use some Huawei equipment in their networks.

FTTP networks

The policy announcement also clarified the role Huawei equipment should play in FTTP networks and other gigabit-capable broadband networks.

Previously, the Government were simply advising companies to transition away from using Huawei equipment in those networks, but this statement provides a cap and a deadline.

From 28 January 2023, no more than 35% of a network may have Huawei equipment in it, giving companies clear guidance on what they're allowed to use and when.

Fibre networks have already started working with new suppliers, with Openreach signing deals with ADTRAN and Nokia while CityFibre are working to replace Huawei kit inside the FibreNation network they purchased earlier this year.

All the debates around 5G and FTTP equipment don't affect the sale of Huawei smartphones. Read our guide to understand whether it's safe to buy one.

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