UK to ban Chinese-owned Huawei from 5G network in huge reversal

UK to ban Chinese-owned Huawei from 5G network in huge reversal

In a huge reversal, the United Kingdom announced its plans to ban the purchase of new Huawei equipment effective at the end of the year and to remove the giant Chinese telecom from its 5G network entirely by 2027 due to the security risk it poses.

U.K. Secretary of State for Culture, Media, and Sport Oliver Dowden made the announcement before the House of Commons on Tuesday following a National Security Council meeting chaired by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Dowden said recent moves by the United States to blacklist Huawei and assessments by the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre led the Conservative Party government to conclude that allowing Huawei to operate even on the outskirts as the U.K. builds its fifth generation network would no longer be a safe nor feasible option.

“The government agrees with the National Cyber Security Centre’s advice — the best way to secure our networks is for operators to stop using new effected Huawei equipment to build the U.K.’s future 5G networks,” Dowden declared. “So, to be clear, from the end of this year, telecoms operators must not buy any 5G equipment from Huawei, and once the telecom security bill is passed, it will illegal for them to do so.”

The U.S. has engaged in an all-out effort to limit Huawei’s global reach, especially in the area of 5G, pushing its “Five Eyes” intelligence allience — including the U.K. — to reject Huawei technology in their communications networks.

Dowden also detailed his country's plan not just to end the purchase of Huawei equipment but also to altogether remove Huawei from the U.K.’s nascent 5G networks.

“I have previously set out our plans to safely manage the presence of high risk vendors in our 5G network, and of course our ambition right from the very beginning was the no one should need to use a high risk vendor for 5G at all. But I know that honorable members have sought a commitment from the government to remove Huawei equipment from our 5G network altogether,” Dowden said. “This is why we have concluded that it is necessary and indeed prudent to commit to a timetable for the removal of Huawei equipment from our 5G network by 2027. Let me be clear: this requirement will be set out in law by the telecom security bill. But he time of the next election we will have implemented in law an irreversible path for the complete removal of Huawei equipment from our Huawei networks.”

In January, Huawei was designated a “high-risk vendor” by the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre, and the U.K. government said that month that it would ban “high-risk vendors” such as Huawei from “core” 5G infrastructure. But the U.K. also said at the time it would allow Huawei to build the network and permit its equipment to handle up to 35% of the nation’s 5G “periphery” system.

Earlier this year, the U.K. considered the core separate from the peripheral network, which uses base stations and antennae to link mobile devices to the core, but the U.S. said it did bit believe such a distinction was possible.

The Justice Department argues that China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law “requires Chinese companies, such as Huawei and ZTE, to support, provide assistance, and cooperate in China’s national intelligence work, wherever they operate.”

The United States repeatedly pushed the U.K. to reject Huawei from its 5G infrastructure, warning of the national security risks posed by potential backdoor access by the Chinese Communist Party.

“We have been clear-eyed from the start that Chinese-owned vendors — Huawei and ZTE — were deemed to be high risk, and we made clear that the National Cyber Security Centre would review and update its advice as necessary,” Dowden told the House of Commons. He said that the U.S. Commerce Department’s sanctions on Huawei announced in May had been the final straw for the U.K. to decide on reversing itself and work to ban Huawei entirely.

Both the Trump administration and Senate sent warnings to the U.K.’s leaders in March, and the U.S. has long sought to convince allies not to use Huawei, threatening to stop sharing intelligence with countries that don't ban the company in their high-speed wireless networks. The Justice Department also charged the Chinese telecom company in a global racketeering scheme linked to the evasion of sanctions on Iran and North Korea earlier this year.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper told the Senate Armed Services Committee in March that “if our NATO allies incorporate Huawei technology, it may very well have a severe impact on our ability to share information, to share intelligence, to share operational plans, and for the alliance to conduct itself as an alliance.”

Federal agencies in the U.S. were banned in August 2019 from purchasing telecommunications products, surveillance equipment, or any other products or services from Huawei, ZTE Corporation, and three other Chinese companies. In a second and wider-ranging regulation that will be implemented on Aug. 13, the Washington Examiner has learned that these agencies will also have to avoid doing business with any companies that buy products or services from the five Chinese companies.

The Trump administration believes that a strong enforcement of the China telecom ban is important, given that the U.S. Intelligence Community and the Pentagon see these Chinese companies as closely linked to the Chinese Communist Party.

Attorney General William Barr was picked in April to lead a revamped national security group dubbed “Team Telecom” as part of the Trump administration’s effort to combat foreign influence in the U.S. telecommunications sector amid concerns about China and other foreign parties.

In June, the Federal Communications Commission designated Huawei and ZTE as “national security threats” and banned the two companies from accessing U.S. government subsidies to build communication infrastructure.

The Pentagon also named Huawei as one of 20 Chinese companies operating in the United States with direct ties to the Chinese government’s People’s Liberation Army.

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