Why has Huawei been banned and what happens if you have one of their phones?

14 July 2020, 15:32

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said the UK can no longer be confident in guaranteeing the security of future Huawei 5G equipment
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said the UK can no longer be confident in guaranteeing the security of future Huawei 5G equipment. Picture: PA

By Matt Drake

The UK has announced it is banning Huawei from the country's 5G network, but what are the reasons for the ban and how will it affect you?

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said the UK can no longer be confident in guaranteeing the security of Huawei's 5G equipment.

He said that from the end of 2020, telecommunications operators must not buy any 5G equipment from the Chinese company.

Also, telecoms networks must remove all Huawei components from the 5G network by 2027.

Why was Huawei approved in the first place?

Huawei has invested billions in 5G technology and is considered to be a world leader in the industry.

Boris Johnson sparked controversy within his own party after approving Huawei to roll out 5G.

He justified this by saying that if the firm was banned then it would cause a significant delay in the introduction of widespread 5G in the UK.

The Conservatives had promised in their 2019 manifesto to roll-out full-fibre broadband by 2025 as a "levelling-up" of the country.

The Prime Minister decided not to ban Huawei but to limit the company to having access to no more than 35% of the UK's network.

This is known as the "access network" and connects devices and equipment to mobile phone masts.

What is the security risk posed by Huawei?

The US says Huawei technology could be used by China to conduct intelligence operations.

Washington has banned US firms from doing business with Huawei and wants its allies to do the same as a so-called trade war with Beijing intensifies.

Oliver Dowden said the UK Government has been "clear-eyed from the start" that Huawei was "high risk".

However, in January this year, the Government and GCHQ said the risks posed by the Chinese state were negligible and manageable with the new restrictions in place.

In July this year, the assessment was revised and a report from GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre presented to the Prime Minister claimed new US sanctions on Huawei will force the company to use untrusted technology that could make the risk impossible to control.

Explaining the U-turn, Mr Dowden said: "It is a fact that the US has imposed sanctions on Huawei. As the facts have changed, so has our approach".

Chinese Ambassador to Britain Liu Xiaoming speaks at a news conference in London
Chinese Ambassador to Britain Liu Xiaoming speaks at a news conference in London. Picture: PA

What happens if I have a Huawei phone?

Mr Dowden said the Huawei ban will "have real consequences for the connections on which all our constituents rely".

The Science and Technology Select Committee was warned by BT and Vodafone that the ban would cause disruption to mobile phones.

Vodafone also claimed it will cost "billions to change our current infrastructure".

It is not entirely clear what the ban will mean for handsets in the UK.

But the Huawei Mate 30 range are believed to be the first handsets to be affected by the ban and you will not be able to access Google software or services on them.

Older handsets produced before the ban are still able to have the apps installed and be updated as normal.

What is the impact on the UK?

Mr Dowden said that the ban on Huawei equipment will delay the roll-out of 5G across the UK, with costs of up to £2 billion.

The UK is also likely to get 5G two years later, at an extra cost of £2billion, and full-fibre broadband by 2025 is also at risk if no new supplier is found.

Mr Dowden told the Commons: "Today's 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.

"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."

Shadow digital, science and technology minister Chi Onwurah branded the Government's approach "incomprehensibly negligent".

She said: "It has been clear for some time that there are serious questions over whether Huawei should be allowed to control large sections of our country's telecoms networks, yet the Government refused to face reality.

"Their approach to our 5G capability, Huawei and our national security has been incomprehensibly negligent."

What has Huawei said?

Huawei UK spokesman Ed Brewster said: "This disappointing decision is bad news for anyone in the UK with a mobile phone.

"It threatens to move Britain into the digital slow lane, push up bills and deepen the digital divide.

"Instead of 'levelling up', the Government is levelling down and we urge them to reconsider.

"We remain confident that the new US restrictions would not have affected the resilience or security of the products we supply to the UK.

"Regrettably our future in the UK has become politicised, this is about US trade policy and not security.

"Over the past 20 years, Huawei has focused on building a better connected UK. As a responsible business, we will continue to support our customers as we have always done.

"We will conduct a detailed review of what today's announcement means for our business here and will work with the UK Government to explain how we can continue to contribute to a better connected Britain."

What has China said?

Chinese ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming said banning Huawei would send a "very bad message to other Chinese businesses".

He added: "We want to be your friend, we want to be your partner.

"But if you want to make China a hostile country, you will have to bear the consequences."

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