Vendor barred from core network and restricted in the periphery
The UK has permitted Huawei a restricted role in its 5G networks.
At a meeting of the National Security Council today (January 28), ministers determined that the Chinese vendor should not have access to core networks, and that it should have a 35 per cent cap on its involvement in non-core infrastructure.
Additionally, it will be excluded from “security-critical network functions”, and infrastructure near bases and nuclear sites.
Huawei UK chief Victor Zhang welcomed the news.
“Huawei is reassured by the UK government’s confirmation that we can continue working with our customers to keep the 5G roll-out on track,” he said. “This evidence-based decision will result in a more advanced, more secure and more cost-effective telecoms infrastructure that is fit for the future. It gives the UK access to world-leading technology and ensures a competitive market.
“We agree a diverse vendor market and fair competition are essential for network reliability and innovation, as well as ensuring consumers have access to the best possible technology.”
Digital secretary Nicky Morgan added: “We want world-class connectivity as soon as possible but this must not be at the expense of our national security. High risk vendors never have been and never will be in our most sensitive networks.
“The government has reviewed the supply chain for telecoms networks and concluded today it is necessary to have tight restrictions on the presence of high risk vendors.”
The news will be welcomed by UK operators, who have vocally opposed an outright ban on the vendor’s equipment. However, it will be a disappointment to the US, which has tried to lobby the UK to ban Huawei at the risk of losing intelligence sharing abilities.
Outgoing National Security Council CEO Ciaran Martin said: “This package will ensure that the UK has a very strong, practical and technically sound framework for digital security in the years ahead.
“The National Cyber Security Centre has issued advice to telecoms network operators to help with the industry rollout of 5G and full fibre networks in line with the government’s objectives.
“High risk vendors have never been – and never will be – in our most sensitive networks.”
A Vodafone spokersperson commented: “Vodafone notes the UK Government’s decision to impose restrictions on the use of Huawei equipment in 5G networks.
“While Vodafone UK does not use Huawei in its core – the intelligent part of the network – it will now analyse the potential impact of today’s decision on the non-core elements of its network (masts and transmission links).
“Vodafone UK uses a mix of Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia equipment for its 4G and 5G masts, and we continue to believe that the use of a wide range of equipment vendors is the best way to safeguard the delivery of services to all mobile customers. By working closely with the relevant authorities on any required substitution of equipment and it’s timing, we aim to keep any potential disruption to customers to a minimum.”
An O2 spokesman added: “Huawei kit makes up less than 1% of our owned network infrastructure. We will continue to develop our 5G network with minimum disruption with our primary vendors Nokia and Ericsson. Whilst we agree with the government that diversity of supply is the best way to serve customers, careful consideration must be given to the distinction between ‘core’ and ‘non-core’ as 5G networks develop and evolve. We’ll now take time to review the full report.”
EE added: “This decision is an important clarification for the industry. The security of our networks is an absolute priority for BT, and we already have a long-standing principle not to use Huawei in our core networks. While we have prepared for a range of scenarios, we need to further analyse the details and implications of this decision before taking a view of potential costs and impacts.”
The other MNOs have been reached for comment.