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Task force to find Huawei replacement in 5G networks launched

The British government is launching a new telecoms diversity task force to find a supplier capable of filling the void left by a ban on Huawei’s equipment within the UK’s 5G infrastructure.

Mobile networks in the UK will be banned from purchasing 5G kit from Huawei from the end of this year, leaving only two large-scale suppliers active in the British market: Ericsson and Nokia.

Although the ban took place on security grounds, according to the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) the dependence on just two suppliers also introduces a significant risk for the long-term security of UK networks.

The security provided by a more diverse marketplace was the main reason NCSC gave for initially assessing that Britain’s 5G networks were safer for including Huawei equipment as well as that manufactured by Ericsson and Nokia.

However, following a decision by the White House to ban American companies from providing computer chips to Huawei – potentially pushing it to adopt chips produced by less trusted manufacturers – the NCSC was forced to upgrade the risk posed by Huawei equipment.

The US sanctions were criticised as “arbitrary and pernicious” by Huawei, which has confirmed that 40% of the roles within its enterprise business group in the UK are being made redundant as a result.

On Wednesday the government said it planned to publish a telecoms diversification strategy later this year “to address a market failure where mobile companies are limited to using just three major suppliers in their telecoms networks”.