Stating there is clear evidence of collusion between Huawei and the Chinese state, the Parliament’s Defence Committee has recommended that Huawei-supplied equipment should be removed from the UK’s 5G networks by 2025 instead of 2027 which is the existing deadline.
The Parliament’s Defence Committee is chaired by Conservative MP Tobias Elwood and other MPs in the committee are Stuart Anderson MP, Sarah Atherton MP, Martin Docherty-Hughes MP, Richard Drax MP, Rt Hon Mr Mark Francois MP, Rt Hon Kevan Jones MP, Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck MP, Gavin Robinson MP, Rt Hon John Spellar MP, and Derek Twigg MP.
On Wednesday, the Defence Committee released its report on The Security of 5G, offering a number of recommendations and advice for the government to find a balance between technological advancement and the UK’s national security, including rushing out Huawei from the country’s 5G networks and introducing the Telecoms Security Bill at the earliest.
Huawei equipment should be replaced by 2025 instead of 2027
The Committee expressed its support for the government’s goal of removing Huawei from the UK’s 5G networks by 2027 but said that in light of recent developments, it is feasible to push forward the deadline to 2025 and the government must compensate operators if the 2027 deadline is moved forward.
The shifting of the deadline must have been prompted due to UK network operators quickly signing long-term contracts with the likes of Nokia, Ericsson, and Samsung after the government announced its decision to remove Huawei-supplied equipment from the UK’s 5G networks by 2027.
In late September, BT selected Nokia as its principal 5G RAN vendor in the UK, allowing the Finnish company to supply its AirScale Single RAN (S-RAN) portfolio for both indoor and outdoor coverage, including 5G RAN, AirScale base stations, and Nokia AirScale radio access products. Aside from offering higher capacity benefits to consumers at ultra-low latencies, Nokia will also reduce complexity, increase cost efficiency, optimize BT’s 2G and 4G networks, and help develop BT’s OpenRAN ecosystem.
In June, Ericsson agreed to a “substantial network modernisation programme” with O2. The deal involved Ericsson deploying its 5G RAN network across the UK and also upgrading O2’s existing 2G/3G/4G sites. “Leading products and solutions from the Ericsson Radio System portfolio will be used in the deployment, which includes new multiband and wide-band 5G radios as well as new 5G-optimized basebands to build sustainable sites in preparation for future increases in 5G coverage and capacity,” the company said.
Indicating that merely forcing Huawei out of the UK is not the final solution but one of the steps the government needs to take to preserve the UK’s national security, the Defence Committee said the government, as well as mobile service operators, should continue investment in OpenRAN technology to move away from the current consolidated vendor environment to one in which operators no longer have to consider which vendor to source from.
The government should also work with mobile network operators to bring in new vendors to the UK and also encourage the development of industrial capability in the UK, the Committee recommended.
“We must not surrender our national security for the sake of short-term technological development. This is a false and wholly unnecessary trade-off. A new D10 alliance, that unites the world’s ten strongest democracies, would provide a viable alternative foundation to the technological might of authoritarian states, whose true motives are, at times, murky.
“Democracies the world over are waking up to the dangers of new technology from overseas, that could inadvertently provide hostile states access to sensitive information through the backdoor,” said Tobias Ellwood MP, Chair of the Defence Committee.
“The West must urgently unite to advance a counterweight to China’s tech dominance. As every aspect of our lives becomes increasingly reliant on access to data movement we must develop a feasible, practical and cost-effective alternative to the cheap, high-tech solutions which can be preyed upon and which come stooped with conditions which ensnare a state into long-term allegiance to China,” he added.
Telecoms Security Bill a must to preserve national security
The Defence Committee also batted for the Telecoms Security Bill, stating that the bill will bring regulations up to date and will allow the government to compel operators to act in the interests of security. Recommending the introduction of the bill no later than 31 December this year, it said the bill will help the government avoid a situation where short-term commercial considerations are placed ahead of those for national security and defence.
The Telecoms Security Bill is slated to be introduced in the Parliament in the coming days and once it is passed, it will make it illegal for network operators to retain Huawei-supplied equipment or to purchase equipment from the company beyond 2027.
“Members sought a commitment from the Government to remove Huawei equipment from our 5G network altogether. That 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 telecoms security Bill. 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,” said Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in July.