UPDATED: The British government has banned mobile providers from purchasing Huawei 5G equipment after Dec. 31. All 5G kit supplied by the company must be removed from U.K. networks by 2027.
The move is likely to worsen the U.K.’s relationship with China, already under strain due to their differences over Hong Kong.
Digital secretary Oliver Dowden told U.K. lawmakers of the decision Tuesday.
“This has not been an easy decision, but it is the right one for the U.K. telecoms networks, for our national security and our economy, both now and indeed in the long run,” he said.
He said that the effect of this and previous decisions regarding Huawei would delay the 5G rollout by two to three years and at a cost of up to £2 billion ($2.5 billion).
The decision came after the U.S. imposed new sanctions on Huawei, preventing it from using microchips from American suppliers. The British government asked the National Cyber Security Centre, part of its national security apparatus, to review Huawei’s security, which reported that its kit could not be considered secure if it had to use non-U.S. components.
The decision will chill still further the frosty relationship between the U.K. and China. It follows Britain’s decision to offer a pathway to citizenship for up to three million Hong Kong residents after Beijing imposed tough new security laws.
Dowden said the British government was “clear-eyed about China.” He added: “What we want is a modern and mature relationship with China, based on mutual respect – where we are able to speak frankly when we disagree, but also to work side by side with China on the issues where our interests converge.”
Ajit Pai, chairman of the U.S.’s Federal Communications Commission, welcomed the U.K.’s decision to remove Huawei from its 5G networks.
Pai said: “I’m pleased to see our partners in the United Kingdom take action to address the security concerns they have identified with allowing equipment from Huawei into 5G networks. There is an overwhelming consensus that Huawei is in a position to exploit network vulnerabilities and compromise critical communications infrastructure for the benefit of the Chinese Communist Party. The United Kingdom has taken a necessary step to safeguard its national security as it builds out advanced networks.”