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Huawei says UK 5G network ban puts Britain in ‘digital slow lane’

Huawei has said the UK government’s decision to ban the firm from future involvement in its 5G infrastructure will ‘move Britain into the digital slow lane.’

The Chinese firm has been informed that its equipment must be removed from the UK’s 5G networks by 2027, with the government citing both national security and economic reasons for the decision.

This will mean the replacement of masts already erected around the UK, which is likely to slow the proliferation of 5G mobile data speeds around the UK. The cost of purging Huawei tech from the network is expected to be upwards of £2bn.

“This has not been an easy decision, but it is the right one for the UK telecoms networks, for our national security and our economy, both now and indeed in the long run,” Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden told the House of Commons on Tuesday.

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Huawei, which has already been subject to similar restrictions in the United States, believes the UK’s decision is more about appeasing Washington ahead of a potential trade deal than serving the British pubic.

In a statement emailed to Trusted Reviews, Huawei UK spokesperson Edward Brewster says: “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.”

It is possible Britain will now fall behind in the 5G race as a result of this decision, regardless of whether the national security concerns are merited. Dan Ridsdale, Global Head of TMT for Edison Group, points out the company has the most 5G patent applications, with over 13,000 already granted. The majority of European companies are allowing Huawei infrastructure, while Britain has now limited its choices to two operators.

He said: “While any benefits from the improved security may never become apparent, the rollout of 5G networks in the UK will inevitably be slower and more expensive as a result of the decision, with the number of viable 5G network equipment vendors available to UK operators now reduced to two. With the majority of EU countries expected to allow Huawei to be deployed in a limited fashion, meaning that the UK’s mobile infrastructure may well fall behind that of the EU – at least in terms of capability if not security.”

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