The U.K. government is reportedly initiating plans to phase out the use of Huawei telecom gear in its 5G networks this year, according to multiple media reports.
This represents a shift from Britain’s decision earlier this year, when it granted the Chinese technology vendor a limited role in 5G networks, but restricted its presence to the radio access network (RAN) with a 35% cap.
The move appears to come after the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) determined that Huawei’s products were not secure, according The Sunday Times. The NCSC, part of the U.K.s GCHQ security and intelligence office, launched a new review in late May to assess what impact new U.S. sanctions on Huawei might have on Britain’s telecom networks.
According to the Times, ministers on the National Security Council (NSC) are expected to be asked in the next couple of weeks to approve a ban on the purchase of any new Huawei equipment by the end of 2020.
The latest NCSC review found that the U.S. sanctions mean Huawei will need to rely on untrusted technology, meaning security risks could not longer be controlled, Bloomberg reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.
The U.S. Department of Commerce had cut off shipments of semiconductors using U.S.-made design and fabrication equipment to Huawei, which Mobile Experts’ Joe Madden called a “very painful blow” to the vendor.
The Commerce Department had already placed Huawei and affiliates on its Entity List in 2019, but in imposing new sanctions in May, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said the vendor had “stepped up efforts to undermine these national security-based restrictions.”
Since last year, the U.S. has moved to cut off Huawei’s access to technology, and campaigned for global allies to exclude the vendor from 5G networks, while also banning its presence in the U.S.
Washington claims Huawei equipment poses national security risks and could be subject to China-backed spying or disruption - allegations Huawei has denied.
The U.S. has been interested in finding alternatives or ways to compete with China’s Huawei, reportedly including backing the private sector. Open RAN has also gained traction as a way to diversify vendor options and potentially lower costs. Huawei rivals Nokia and Ericsson are part of the Open Ran Alliance, though the latter has been less vocal about supporting the approach.
Nokia joined the Open RAN Policy Coalition soon after it formed in May. Made up of operators and vendors, the group is advocating, initially in the U.S., for public policies that support investment in R&D and adoption of open architectures.