UK Changes Course & Boots Huawei From Their 5G Network….. Is Canada Next?

Earlier this year, the UK had allowed beleaguered Chinese telco maker Huawei into a portion of their 5G network. This seriously ticked off the US and made the UK do a rethink.

Well the rethink is done and Huawei is out…. In more ways than one. Here’s the details from the BBC:

The UK’s mobile providers are being banned from buying new Huawei 5G equipment after 31 December, and they must also remove all the Chinese firm’s 5G kit from their networks by 2027.

Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden told the House of Commons of the decision.

It follows sanctions imposed by Washington, which claims the firm poses a national security threat – something Huawei denies.

Mr Dowden said the move would delay the country’s 5G rollout by a year.

“This has not been an easy decision, but it is the right one for the UK telecoms networks, for our national security and our economy, both now and indeed in the long run,” he said.

Because the US sanctions only affect future equipment, the government does not believe there is a security justification for removing 2G, 3G and 4G equipment supplied by Huawei.

New restrictions are also being applied to use of the company’s broadband kit.

The government wants operators to “transition away” from purchasing new Huawei equipment for use in the full-fibre network.

Mr Dowden said he expected this to happen within two years.

So let’s recap:

  1. UK telcos aren’t allowed to buy Huawei gear.
  2. UK telcos have to rip out existing Huawei gear.
  3. UK broadband providers can’t use their gear.

UK telcos are warning that bad things could happen to customers:

BT and Vodafone had warned that customers could face mobile blackouts if they were forced to remove all of Huawei’s 5G kit in less time.

Somehow, I suspect if the UK government is breathing down their necks, UK telcos will get this gear out without any disruptions.

Now Huawei isn’t happy about this according to CNBC:

Tuesday’s decision is a significant blow to Huawei, which had been ramping up its investment into the U.K. with a new research and development center in Cambridge, England, and a push for developers at the start of the year to help it build an alternative to Google’s Play app store. Huawei was cut off from licensed Google software last year due to U.S. trade measures.

“This disappointing decision is bad news for anyone in the U.K. with a mobile phone,” Ed Brewster, a spokesperson for Huawei U.K., told CNBC. “It threatens to move Britain into the digital slow lane, push up bills and deepen the digital divide.”

Huawei urged the government to reconsider the move, adding it was “confident” the new U.S. restrictions “would not have affected the resilience or security of the products we supply.” The firm “will conduct a detailed review” of what the decision means for its business in the country, said Brewster.

And China to nobody’s surprise is not happy to say the least:

Huawei denies it has ever been asked to engage in any spying on behalf of the Chinese state, while Beijing itself says Johnson’s decision will be an acid test of the Sino-British relationship that had developed under David Cameron.

I think that’s code that China will hit back in some way. Given that the China/UK relationship is under stress because of the new security law in Hong Kong, I suspect that this will escalate tensions between the two countries.

There’s a secondary question. Now that the UK has punted Huawei from their 5G network, is Canada next? Canada has avoided making a decision on Huawei, even though the big three telcos in Canada have committed to not buying their gear. While it is true that the are other factors at play here including the detention of Meng Wanzhou who is the Huawei CFO by Canada, and the retaliation of China by essentially holding two Canadians hostage, there’s one fact that can’t be ignored. Canada is part of the “Five Eyes” intelligence network. And Canada is the only member of this network that hasn’t banned Huawei. I would expect that pressure on Canada is about to ramp up. And Canada will have to make a decision on Huawei sooner rather than later.

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