U.K. Weighs Huawei Installation Ban Next Year to Sway Lawmakers

UK Huawei 5G

The U.K. is considering a ban on the installation of Huawei Technologies Co. 5G equipment as soon as next year to appease lawmakers pushing for tighter restrictions on the Chinese telecom equipment maker, according to people familiar with the matter.

Lawmakers from Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party are demanding stricter rules on companies using Huawei 5G gear, as part of the price for backing telecommunications security legislation due in parliament next week. Before now, lawmakers had left it to telecom firms to replace Huawei’s 5G equipment before a blanket ban is set to be enforced in 2027.

Network providers have been stockpiling parts made by Huawei while sourcing alternatives. An early ban on installing those parts could increase costs at companies such as BT Group Plc and Vodafone Group Plc, which would be forced to speed up the overhaul of parts of their networks, according to people familiar with the companies’ plans.

The new proposal would see a ban in force as soon as September 2021, the people said, asking for anonymity as the talks are confidential. The U.K. has already set limits on telecom companies buying Huawei equipment, set to kick in after December.

In January, the U.K. granted Huawei a limited role in 5G networks, leading to a parliamentary rebellion. Prime Minister Boris Johnson reversed his position in July, after U.S. sanctions introduced in May affected Huawei’s supply chain. British officials said the change meant they were no longer able to guarantee the security of the Shenzhen company’s products.

The current draft of the telecommunications bill grants the government powers to enforce a moratorium against Huawei, but includes no deadline and doesn’t mention any company by name, angering potential Conservative rebels who want firm commitments against Huawei.

The U.S. has campaigned for its allies to exclude Huawei on the grounds its proximity to China’s government constitutes an unacceptable security risk, which the company has denied.

Without Huawei, U.K. mobile networks will lean heavily on its Nordic rivals Nokia Oyj and Ericsson AB. The government is due to publish more details about diversifying the U.K. 5G supply chain in the next few weeks.

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