UK Government brings forward 5G ‘high risk vendor’ ban

By Paddy Smith
The UK’s government has announced an aggressive digital roadmap to ban Huawei kit from September 2021 and diversify 5G telecoms vendors...

The UK government has set out a roadmap for the complete removal of ‘high risk vendor equipment’ from the nation’s 5G networks.

The ban on installing Huawei 5G equipment – which could be met with meaningful penalties – will be brought forward to September 2021.

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The roadmap includes a £250 million strategy to diversify the 5G telecoms market, which includes the formation of a National Telecoms Lab and trials with Japanese vendor NEC.

Digital secretary Oliver Dowden said, “Today I am setting out a clear path for the complete removal of high risk vendors from our 5G networks. This will be done through new and unprecedented powers to identify and ban telecoms equipment which poses a threat to our national security.

“We are also publishing a new strategy to make sure we are never again dependent on a handful of telecoms vendors for the smooth and secure running of our networks. Our plans will spark a wave of innovation in the design of our future mobile networks.”

In a statement the government also outlined its diversification strategy:

The Diversification Strategy will help to mitigate the resilience risks to 5G networks ahead of the 2027 deadline. It will see the government spend an initial £250 million to kick off work to create a more diverse, competitive, and innovative supply market for telecoms.

This will not only increase the quality, security and resilience of new 5G mobile networks but will help people access the economic and social benefits brought by advances in new technologies.

The strategy sets out a number of targeted measures the government will be taking forward:

  • Funding a new Open RAN trial with Japanese telecoms vendor NEC. The NEC NeutrORAN project will be based in Wales and will aim to see live 5G Open RAN within the UK in 2021, testing solutions to deploy 5G networks in the most cost effective, innovative and secure way.
  • Establishing a world-class National Telecoms Lab. A secure research facility that will bring together operators, existing and new suppliers, academia and the government to create representative networks in which to research and test new ways of increasing security and interoperability.
  • Funding the SmartRAN Open Network Innovation Centre (SONIC). Partnering with Ofcom and Digital Catapult, this will be an industry-facing testing facility to foster Open RAN in the UK helping to develop a supply chain with multiple suppliers at every stage.

The strategy sets out a long-term vision for a healthy supply market, which revolves around three key pillars: supporting incumbent suppliers, which will continue to be a major part of the UK market and help the UK meet its ambitious digital infrastructure plans; attracting new suppliers into the UK market; and accelerating open-interface and interoperable technologies such as Open RAN.

The strategy will also be an opportunity to secure the UK’s position as a global leader in science and technology and harness existing expertise and investment in SMEs and R&D initiatives to grow the telecoms base in the tech industry.

The government will be seeking to lead international efforts with like-minded countries on a coordinated approach to the global issue of telecoms supply chain consolidation.

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