The UK has banned Huawei from its 5G network - here’s what that means


On 14 July, the UK government announced a ban on the use of technology and infrastructure supplied by Chinese tech firm, Huawei, from its fledgling 5G network.

As a result of the ruling, Huawei technology will have to be stripped from the high speed mobile network by 2027, and telecoms companies will be banned from purchasing it from next year.

Telecoms companies are also being ordered to shift away from the purchase of Huawei's equipment for the full fibre broadband network over a period lasting up to two years.

Here's why the decision has been made, and what it means for you.

What's wrong with Huawei?

Outlining the decision in the House of Commons, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said "keeping the country secure is the primary duty of a government to its people".

The row over the safety and security of Huawei has been ongoing for a while now, particularly in the USA, where Donald Trump continues to attack the Chinese firm.

In 2019, the President issued an executive order blocking transactions involving information or communications technology that “poses an unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States", describing the company as "something that’s very dangerous".

At the same time, the US Department of Commerce announced Huawei had been added to an index of companies and people deemed a threat to American security.

US intelligence agencies, including the National Security Agency (NSA), FBI and CIA, have previously implored American citizens to avoid using Huawei smartphones and services over fears the company may pass user data back to the Chinese government and engage in espionage.

Google also revoked Huawei's access to its Android operating system, though Huawei confirmed it would continue to support its smartphones and tablets with security updates and services.

The Chinese firm developed its own operating system in response to the Android ban - an open-source software called HarmonyOS which can be adapted for use across a wide variety of electronic devices.

What does its ban mean?

The biggest effect the banning of Huawei will have is on the UK's 5G infrastructure; the network will still go ahead, but it will be a little while longer until it is fully operational.

That's because relatively few firms are equipped to provide the requisite technologies needed, and alternative parts and tech will have to be found from other suppliers.

Explaining the knock-on effects of the decision, Oliver Dowden told the Commons the decision to ban the procurement of new Huawei 5G equipment from the end of this year "will delay roll-out by a further year and will add up to half a billion pounds to costs.”

"Requiring operators in addition to remove Huawei equipment from their 5G networks by 2027 will add hundreds of millions of pounds further to the cost and further delayed roll-out,” he explained.

"This means a cumulative delay to 5G roll-out of two to three years and costs of up to £2 billion. This will have real consequences for the connections on which all our constituents rely."

But he rejected warnings from telecoms companies that stripping Huawei technology out of 5G masts would lead to mobile service blackouts, telling MPs, “This risk will not materialise”.

What if I have a Huawei phone?

The Huawei decision is not expected to affect those who already own a Huawei phone.

The 5G network will still go ahead, and all phones will be able to work off it. The current 4G network remains unchanged.