All Huawei 5G kit to be removed from UK by 2027 - UPDATED
The roll-out of 5G in the UK is set to cost around £2 billion more than expected and face delays of two years based on the news around what operators will have to do. The short summary based on what has been said in the House of Commons
- No new Huawei 5G equipment to be purchased by the of this year
- All Huawei 5G equipment to be removed from UK networks by 2027
- The requirements for removal will be enshired in law, rather than be guidance.
- This announcement means a delay of around two years for the roll-out of 5G in the UK
- Cost impact is estimated at around £2 billion
The impact on full fibre, VDSL2 and other fixed broadband networks is less, with a technical consultation set to take place to see what alternatives exist for operators to roll-out full fibre. The aim here is to ensure that the 2025 Gigabit target does not face a similar delay to the 5G roll-out.
In his statement to the House of Commons Rt Hon Oliver Dowden MP (link may expire but was valid on 14th July 2020) starting at 12:37:37, The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport made it clear that this change in the UK stance since January 2020 is down to the sanctions imposed by the United States in May 2020 which materially affect the ability to ensure the security of Huawei equipment.
So good news, the 70,000 Huawei VDSL2 cabinets and existing hardware in use at headend exchanges and core devices in various networks for fixed broadband will not need to be ripped out. While the UK Government has stopped short of saying telecoms operators cannot buy any Huawei equipment seems unlikely that any significantly sized operators will invest heavily in new Huawei kit even if just for fixed network use.
By 2027 it is likely that VDSL2 cabinets in some areas will start to be decommissioned, the pace of this being determined by the roll-out of full fibre and subsequent bulk migrations of customers off of existing ECI and Huawei VDSL2 hardware. Some cabinets will also be almost 20 years old at that point and thus at the end of their working life anyway.
Diversity and competition in the supply chain or put more correctly the lack of it in relation to the supply of leading edge telecommunications kit was mentioned and while it is always easy to blame the current Government, we believe it is fair to say that successive Governments for many decades in the UK have not encouraged key technology industries to remain active within the UK at all stages of the supply chain. The UK is still generally doing well in the research sphere but once you get to production innovation and manufacture at scale we are very poor and even when technology is assembled in the UK it is often reliant on silicon from places like China.
Update Wednesday 15th July 2020: Adding a few words about the changes that impact full fibre (FTTP) networks, the technical consultation around full fibre is part of a transition period that will last two years. The immediate change is that firms are expected to stop buying new Huawei equipment, but the transition process exists in an effort to allow firms to continue buying Huawei FTTP kit if to not do so was going to delay roll-outs and put the 2025 target in jeopardy. No date such as the 2027 date for FTTP networks to have removed all Huawei kit has been given, but given the position the UK held in January it would not be wise to assume that a date for removal does not end up written into law.