Most important European market to announce that it will ban Huawei from its telecommunications networks, the UK has set a definite date for the Chinese manufacturer to no longer be part of its infrastructure: local operators will no longer be able to install branded equipment on their 5G networks from the end of September 2021. Previously, that deadline was January of next year.
British public authorities have released a new roadmap that must be followed by teles. The document presents the steps that telecommunications companies will need to follow and implement in the coming years, with the aim of removing suppliers considered “high risk” from their networks. And there is also a specific timetable to eliminate Huawei from the country’s future 5G infrastructure.
The new deadline is likely to address concerns that operators may stock Huawei equipment before January 2021 to install it later.
UK digital secretary Oliver Dowden said:
“Today, I am setting a clear path for the complete removal of high-risk suppliers from our 5G networks. This will be done through new and unprecedented powers to identify and ban telecommunications equipment that poses a threat to our national security”
Stricter security laws
In July of this year, the UK government determined that Huawei’s equipment should be completely removed from the country’s 5G networks by 2027. Although operators are forced to refrain from installing devices from the Chinese supplier starting next September , maintenance of old appliances, however, will still be allowed.
However, the major operators have already started the transition process. In recent months, BT Group, which is a leader in telecommunications in the region, has signed partnerships with Nokia and Ericsson, which together will cover the deployment of the company’s 5G networks. While the new timeframe for installing Huawei equipment may speed up some plans, a large-scale outage is unlikely to occur.
The new roadmap set by the British government comes at a time when the local parliament is preparing to revise a new telecommunications security bill. It aims to provide the government with “unprecedented” powers that could force the country’s biggest telcos to adhere to strict security rules, which include managing high-risk vendors like Huawei.
If the bill is passed, in practice, it will effect the ban on the Chinese manufacturer in the UK. In addition, it will provide the government with legal tools to enforce the roadmap it proposed to remove high-risk suppliers from the country’s infrastructure. For example, it could allow operators to impose heavy fines of up to 10% of annual sales or £ 100,000 a day if they do not meet the new safety standards.
Huawei as big target
Before parliamentary review of the telecommunications security bill later this week, the government released draft documents that illustrate how ministers can use the powers of the new law to restrict the use of Huawei’s goods and services.
The documents designate Huawei as a supplier that requires “specific management” – a beautiful term for constant monitoring. To justify this “different treatment”, the authorities cite security concerns stemming from opaque processes, low quality products and close ties with the Chinese government.
While the removal of Huawei from the country’s 5G networks has been clearly established as a priority, the government has also recognized that banning one of the few network providers on the market could have adverse consequences. Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei have a combined 80% share of the global network infrastructure market, which means that there are very few alternatives to the Chinese company that UK operators can choose from. Relying on just a few providers is limiting and can threaten the quality and reliability of UK networks. In addition to the final price to consumers.
End of dependency
However, in parallel with roadmap banning Huawei, the government launched a supplier diversification strategy. “We are also publishing a new strategy to ensure that we never again depend on a handful of telecommunications providers for the safe and smooth operation of our networks,” said Dowden. “Our plans are going to spark a wave of innovation in the design of our future mobile networks.”
For this diversification, the government bets its chips on OpenRAN technology, which encourages interoperability between different suppliers thanks to the use of the so-called “neutral hardware”. This pattern was presented as a viable way to encourage new players to enter the market, reducing the cost of competing against a large supplier.
The British government’s strategy also reserves funds to encourage several projects aimed at implementing OpenRAN by 2027, the deadline for Huawei’s total ban. a SmartRAN Open Network Innovation Centre (SONIC), for example, will be established in partnership with Ofcom and the non-profit organization Digital Catapult to focus on developing an OpenRAN supply chain.
“This is a great opportunity to support innovation and help shape the UK’s supply chains of the future,” said Simon Saunders, director of emerging and online technology at Ofcom – the British version of Anatel. “Large and small companies will be able to test their equipment in a real-world environment and see how it could operate on the UK’s telecommunications networks.”
In this year’s spending review, Chancellor Rishi Sunak set aside 250 million pounds (R $ 1.79 billion) to support the measures set out in the supplier diversification strategy to build 5G networks that are not overly dependent on a few companies in the sector. And up to £ 50 million (R $ 358 million) of financing will be available as early as next year.
Can we have Chinese sanctions in the UK?
The day after the United Kingdom announced the ban on Huawei, the Chinese government warned the British: the expulsion of the company will cost them dearly, especially in the matter of investments.
And this veiled threat is especially worrying when looking at the size of both economies: China has a GDP of $ 15 trillion, five times that of the United Kingdom. After Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement of a ban on Huawei, the Chinese government warned that the decision would hurt his country’s investments, as Chinese companies watched as London “evicted” its country’s telecommunications giant.
“Now I would say that this is not only disappointing – it is disheartening,” Chinese ambassador Liu Xiaoming told the European Reform Center at the time, adding that Britain “simply abandoned Huawei”. Still according to Xiaoming, “the way you treat Huawei is being followed closely by other Chinese companies, and it will be very difficult for them to have the confidence to invest more,” he said.
In Beijing, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs called Britain “a relatively small place” that was becoming subservient to the United States. “Does the United Kingdom want to maintain its independent status or be reduced to being a vassal of the United States, to be the paw of America’s cats?” Asked China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying. “The security of Chinese investment in the UK is being threatened.”
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