UK government consults on legal direction to restrict Huawei in UK telecoms networks

February 24, 2022

The government has launched a consultation on proposed legal instruments to control the use of Huawei equipment in UK networks.

UK telecoms providers have already begun to remove Huawei from the UK’s 5G networks following the government’s announcement in July 2020. The targeted consultations are being conducted in accordance with sections 105Z3 and 105Z9 of the Communications Act 2003, as amended by the Telecommunications (Security) Act 2021. These provisions require the Secretary of State to consult public communications providers which would be subject to a proposed designated vendor direction, relating to the use of Huawei equipment and services in the UK’s public telecoms networks, and Huawei as the proposed designated vendor.

In November the Act took effect and provided the government with the legal mechanism to restrict the use of high-risk vendor equipment in public networks where deemed necessary and proportionate in the interests of national security. The new powers aim to ensure UK mobile networks remain safe and secure as 5G becomes progressively more embedded in UK national infrastructure, industry and daily lives.

The legal instruments the government is consulting on are known as a ‘designated vendor direction’, which contains requirements that public telecoms providers would need to follow regarding use of Huawei equipment and services; and a ‘designation notice’ which categorises Huawei as a high-risk vendor.

Subject to the consultation, the direction will legally require telecoms operators to:

  • Remove all Huawei equipment from 5G networks by the end of 2027.
  • Not install Huawei equipment in 5G networks, effective immediately upon the issuing of the final direction.
  • Remove all Huawei equipment from the core of telecoms networks by 28 January 2023.
  • Not install sanctions-affected Huawei equipment in full fibre networks, effective immediately upon the issuing of the direction. This includes any equipment for which the supply chain or manufacturing process has been altered due to the impact of US sanctions.
  • Reduce the share of Huawei equipment to 35 per cent of the full fibre and 5G access (i.e. non-core) networks by 31 July 2023, six months later than previously announced due to the difficulties providers have faced during the pandemic.
  • Remove Huawei high data rate intra-core and inter-operator transmission equipment – hardware which sends data across a network without processing it – from all networks by 31 December 2025.

In July 2020 the government announced it would hold a technical consultation with full fibre operators regarding their use of Huawei equipment. Following the conclusion of that technical consultation, the government worked with the National Cyber Security Centre to analyse responses. The government considers that preventing any future installation of this equipment addresses the national security risk posed by Huawei in full fibre networks, but it will consider views from consultees before reaching a final decision.

The government says that this is not expected to have an adverse effect on the roll out of faster broadband, and that the telecoms industry remains committed to the government’s target of bringing gigabit broadband to at least 85% of the UK by 2025.

The consultation ends on 21 March 2022. It is only open to the telecoms companies affected but has been published for transparency.