U.K.’s Theresa May will ban Huawei from 5G network cores

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The decision may put some of the U.K. operators in a bind, as they begin to build out their respective 5G networks. (Monica Alleven/FierceWireless)

U.K. Prime minister Theresa May has decided to ban Huawei from supplying gear for core components of 5G networks in the U.K., according to news first reported by the Daily Telegraph. The decision followed a meeting between ministers on the National Security Council (NSC), amid increasing global concerns over possible security threats China-based Huawei may pose to countries’ critical infrastructure.

U.K. media reports indicate that Huawei will still be able to supply noncore products to carriers building out 5G networks, but that several ministers on the NSC argued in favor of a complete ban of Huawei gear in light of cybersecurity concerns.

The U.K. has been monitoring Huawei’s cybersecurity protocols since 2010, when the Huawei cybersecurity evaluation center (HCSEC) was formed. The HCSEC oversight board was later established in 2014, and has released five annual reports to date on Huawei security.

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The latest report found that despite numerous security concerns identified in the 2018 report, Huawei has made “no material progress” in addressing those issues. It also stated that it “has not yet seen anything to give it confidence in Huawei’s capacity to successfully complete the elements of its transformation program that it has proposed as a means of addressing these underlying defects.”

The decision may put some of the U.K. operators in a bind, as they begin to build out their respective 5G networks. Wireless carriers O2 and Three are currently testing 5G network equipment with Huawei, while Vodafone has said it will pause 5G tests with Huawei until further notice.

David Dyson, CEO of Three, has warned that a ban on Huawei gear would delay the operator’s rollout of 5G. “We’ve already started to deploy equipment for when we launch 5G in the second half of the year,” Dyson told BBC in an interview earlier this year. “So if we had to change vendor now, we would take a big step backwards and probably cause a delay of 12 to 18 months.”

Wireless carrier EE and its parent company BT have barred Huawei products from 5G deployments.

The U.S. government has led the charge against Huawei, lobbying its allies to ban the equipment maker in light of concerns that Huawei could possibly allow the Chinese government backdoor access to critical infrastructure.

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