On 14 July 2020, the UK Government announced that Huawei would be banned from supplying new equipment for UK 5G networks from 31 December 2020, and that all existing Huawei equipment will be removed from the UK’s 5G networks by the end of 2027.

The decision was taken in a meeting of the UK National Security Council (NSC) chaired by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. It follows new advice provided by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) on the impact of recent US sanctions against the telecommunications sector, suggesting that due to these sanctions the risks posed by Huawei’s continued participation in the UK’s 5G networks are too great. The NCSC states in its advice that the additional US sanctions placed on Huawei on 15 May 2020:

… are such that Huawei is very unlikely to be able to use US technology and software in the design and production of its products. We believe that will force significant changes to the products that Huawei supply to the UK, which will make oversight of the products significantly more challenging, and potentially impossible.

This decision reverses HM Government’s January 2020 decision to exclude “high risk vendors” (i.e. Huawei) from sensitive “core” parts of the UK’s 5G network, but to allow such vendors’ access to non-sensitive parts of the network subject to a capped 35% share. The restrictions on Huawei supplying sensitive and critical parts of the network remain in place.

Although the US sanctions also impact Huawei products used in the UK’s full-fibre broadband networks, HM Government is only advising full fibre operators to transition from purchasing new Huawei equipment. This transition period will be determined by a technical consultation, which is not currently expected to last longer than two years.

HM Government intends to implement this new framework “at the earliest opportunity” by putting the necessary powers in place in a new Telecoms Security Bill. It is envisaged that this legislation will give HM Government the necessary powers to impose these controls on high risk vendors, and will create extensive security duties on UK network operators.

Further background and details of the US sanctions can be found in our following blog posts: