In a reversal of a decision made by the U.K. government back in January, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered the removal of all Huawei equipment from the country’s 5G network by the year 2027.
Per Johnson’s instructions, it will be considered illegal for telecom operators to purchase any 5G equipment from Huawei following the end of this year.
Britain’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport secretary Oliver Dowden told parliament that the result of this decision will be the delay of the U.K. rollout of the next-gen wireless technology by about two to three years, and that it will cost the country as much as 2 billion pounds.
“This has not been an easy decision, but it is the right one for the U.K. telecoms networks, for our national security, and our economy, both now and indeed in the long run,” Dowden said. “By the time of the next election, we will have implemented in law an irreversible path for the complete removal of Huawei equipment from our 5G networks.”
The decision is likely to please the Trump administration, as the U.S. president has been pushing for Johnson’s Conservative Party to go back on its January decision to grant the Chinese tech giant a role — albeit a limited one — in its 5G infrastructure.
Tensions between the U.S. and China are heating up, with Trump consistently blaming the latter for the COVID-19 virus that has hamstrung the global economy, hitting the U.S. particularly hard as it leads the world in both total cases as well as deaths.
Dowden has likely added to the tension with a claim that Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre told ministers that it no longer could guarantee Huawei would provide the supply of equipment England would need following new U.S. sanctions on Huawei chip technology.
For its part, Huawei denies all allegations of spying for the Chinese Communist Party, saying that the U.K.’s decision was politically motivated by the U.S. and that it “threatens to move Britain into the digital slow lane, push up bills, and deepen the digital divide.”
The race to implement national 5G networks has been an ongoing story over the past year, as the technology is at the centre of the flow of many emerging technologies, including military. China has been leading the way thus far, which may be the reason a number of officials in the U.S. have been pushing for the ban against Huawei.
Dowden has also stated that the British government plans to work with allies in the intelligence agencies to help create a group to rival Huawei, citing firms from Finland, Sweden, South Korea, and Japan.
“The first thing we need to do is ensure that we protect the other two vendors in this market, so Nokia and Ericsson,” Dowden said. “Secondly, we need to get new suppliers in. That starts with Samsung, and it starts with NEC, ” he added.