With rising sentiments against China, the United Kingdom has banned its mobile service providers from buying new Huawei 5G equipment after 31st December this year. They have been instructed to phase out Chinese 5G kits by 2027 completely.
Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden told the House that the decision might delay the UK’s 5G rollout by almost a year. He said, “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.”
Watch: Huawei Banned From UK 5G Networks
It has happened on the backdrop of American sanctions on Chinese IT major Huawei on national security threat ground. Huawei has denied all the charges.
Dowden clarified that the move wouldn’t impact 2G, 3G, and 4G equipment supplied by Huawei as the sanctions by the U.S. is only related to future equipment.
Huawei said that the ban would be bad news for anyone in the UK with a mobile phone. Non-access to inexpensive 5G equipment may push “Britain into the digital slow lane, push up bills, and deepen the digital divide.”
Impact on Huawei’s Broadband Kit
Mr. Dowden confirmed that the ban would also be effective for broadband service providers. They will have to phase out Huawei’s broadband kits over the next two years. He also said that the government is likely to have a technical consultation with the industry leaders regarding this.
It should be noted that the UK government has reviewed Huawei’s presence in its telecom infrastructure in January. It has then put a cap on its market share.
The U.S. put sanctions on Huawei in May, alleging it of providing a gateway to China for spying.
Huawei’s UK Office
Just before Secretary Dowden’s ban statement, reports of Huawei’s UK chairman and the ex-chief executive of BP, Lord Browne leaving the Chinese IT major emerged. As per the reports, he would be leaving Huawei in September- before the expiration of his term.
Lord Browne was given the task of convincing UK legislators to prevent the ban.
Later, Huawei confirmed the report and said that Browne “has been central to our commitment here dating back 20 years, and we thank him for his valuable contribution.”
Huawei claims itself to be one of the major Chinese investors of the UK. It has a current employee strength of 1600 in the UK.
Earlier this year, Browne noted that Huawei had deployed only 20,000 5G base stations in the UK, and it aims at delivering 500,000 base stations this year across the globe.
The ban is likely to impact BT the most. It said in a statement that it would analyze the implication of the announcement from a cost point of view.
However, the two major benefactors of the step are likely to be network equipment providers Ericsson and Nokia.
Both companies have issued statements stating their readiness to fill the gap after Huawei’s exit. The telecom majors said that they had the experience of building 5G networks and were well-established in the UK.
Secretary Dowden said that the UK’s process of finding new market entrants would start with South Korea’s Samsung and NEC of Japan, whereas Ericsson and Nokia would be treated as existing players.
The Chinese Response
The Chinese government has strongly objected to the UK’s decision to ban Huawei from its market. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China would take appropriate measures to safeguard Chinese companies’ interests.
China’s ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, said that UK’s decision was “not only disappointing; it’s disheartening.”
However, the United States has welcomed the decision. On a press meet, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appreciated UK’s decision and said that the US would take travel access of some Huawei workers.
Earlier, the U.S. President, Donald Trump, has taken personal credit for the UK’s action.
Trump said, “We convinced many countries, many countries – and I did this myself for the most part – not to use Huawei because we think it’s an unsafe security risk.”