UK extends deadline to remove Huawei 5G core gear

The U.K. government on Thursday affirmed that Huawei technology must be removed from the U.K.’s 5G public networks by the end of 2027.

The government handed legal documents to 35 U.K. network operators that, it said, puts its previous position to remove Huawei kit from U.K. 5G networks on a legal footing.

The U.K. also extended the deadline to remove Huawei gear from the network core. Network operators now have until December 2023 to do so, an extension of the government’s previous January 2023 mandate.

In June, BT cited delays caused by Covid-19 lockdowns as a reason it might not meet the January 2023 deadline for removing Huawei from core 5G infrastructure, CNBC reported, noting that BT CEO Philip Jansen even warned the ban could result in network outages if implemented too quickly.

BT, which in 2020 announced it would use Ericsson to replace Huawei, welcomed news of the extension.

“The publication of the final Designated Vendor Direction provides important clarity on the process and timescales for the removal of Huawei equipment from UK telecoms networks,” a BT spokesperson said in a statement provided to Fierce.

The U.K. also issued a separate designation notice to Huawei categorizing the company as a high-risk vendor of 5G network equipment and services.

The U.K. said the ban on Huawei 5G gear follows guidance from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) that the security of the company’s products - such as equipment used at phone mast sites and telephone exchanges - can no longer be managed due to the impact of U.S. sanctions on its supply chain. The sanctions, imposed by the U.S. government in 2020, stop Huawei from accessing U.S. semiconductor technology on which it previously relied.

Addressing 'Huawei loophole' 

In the U.S., the FCC is expected to ban all sales of new Huawei and ZTE telecom devices, not just those that receive subsidies from the Universal Service Fund.

Axios reported on Thursday that FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel circulated a draft order among her fellow commissioners earlier this month that would address the “Huawei loophole” that allowed companies to use private sector money to buy equipment from the firm.

A Huawei spokesperson told Fierce the company was not commenting on the FCC’s latest action.