The U.K. will ban the installation of 5G equipment from China’s Huawei Technologies Co. by the end of next September.
The restriction, first reported by Bloomberg last Monday, is part of a 250 million-pound ($333 million) package of measures brought in to diversify Britain’s wireless supply chain announced by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. The stricter rules may also help fend off a challenge from lawmakers in the ruling Conservative Party seeking tighter restrictions on the Chinese network equipment maker.
British ministers announced in July that Shenzhen-based Huawei would be totally banned from Britain’s next-generation mobile networks in 2027, with purchases barred from January 2021. To comply with those rules, phone companies would have had to stop adding Huawei components eventually, but the new ban may accelerate their plans to overhaul systems. Maintaining existing equipment will be allowed.
The crackdown followed a U.S. push for allies to exclude Huawei on the grounds it was an unacceptable security threat, which the company denies. In January, British officials said Huawei could play a limited role with manageable risks. They since reversed that stance and backed a ban following U.S. sanctions introduced in May, saying the American squeeze on Huawei’s silicon supply chain meant its security could no longer be guaranteed.
Telecommunications carriers like BT Group Plc will now be reliant on a duopoly of Nokia Oyj and Ericsson AB, and those Nordic companies have already won big contracts in the wake of the Huawei ban. To help cut that dependency, the government will start a National Telecoms Lab to research security and increase compatibility between vendors, as well as fund trials with potential challengers like Japan’s NEC Corp. to make it easier for competitors to enter the market. Phasing out older 2G and 3G technology would also speed up the diversification process, according to the government’s statement.
Carriers will be banned from outsourcing service management to Huawei from April 2021 apart from in limited circumstances, the government said.