Government set to phase out Huawei from British 5G networks within months, report claims

2020-07-06

Prime Minster Boris Johnson is expected to begin phasing out Chinese tech giant Huawei from Britain's 5G infrastructure as soon as this year.

That's according to a report by the , which says that GCHQ's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has reassessed the risks posed by the Chinese firm and that its findings will be presented to Johnson this week.

According to the Telegraph, GCHQ believes that the sanctions imposed by the US government on Huawei in May have had a "severe" impact on the firm's viability. Due to these sanctions, the Chinese firm will be forced to use "untrusted" microchips in its equipment, making it impossible for security agencies to control threats in the long run.

The Telegraph says that British officials are currently crafting proposals to prevent mobile carriers from installing new Huawei equipment in as little as six months, and to also speed up measures to remove Chinese equipment already installed in telecom networks.

Oliver Dowden, Minister for Culture, Media and Sport, who oversees the NCSC, will brief the Prime Minister in on the report's findings in coming days. He is expected to recommend the Prime Minster to strip out 'high-risk' vendors from Britain's telecom networks by the end of 2029.

It is understood that Johnson will also present GCHQ's latest findings to Parliament by the end of the month.

Earlier this year, Johnson had decided to allow . However, the decision led to a rebellion on his own benches, with a number of Tory MPs demanding a ban on the Chinese firm amid concern over the its ties with China's ruling Communist Party.

Many Tory MPs are also pushing the government to rethink UK's relations with China amid accusations that Beijing did not disclose the real scale of the Covid-19 threat after the first cases emerged in the country in December last year.

They say that allowing Huawei to play a role in building British mobile networks would be offering too much influence over British telecommunication infrastructure to Beijing.

Huawei's involvement in Britain's 5G network has also created some tension between Washington DC and London in recent months at a time when the UK is seeking to strengthen ties with the US after Brexit.

The US has accused Huawei of aiding spying efforts by the Chinese government. The US government alleges that Huawei is controlled by the Chinese government, and that its equipment could be used by Beijing to spy on western countries.

In May last year, the US Commerce Department put Huawei in its "Entity List," without getting a special licence from the US government.

For over one year, the White House administration has been urging the UK and other allies not to purchase 5G equipment from Huawei.

In April, Huawei urged the UK to avoid reversing its position on the company's role in building part of ultrafast 5G network, .

In an open letter, Huawei's UK chief Victor Zhang highlighted the significance of internet connectivity amid ongoing coronavirus crisis and said that Huawei was working hard to keep the UK connected.