Britain delayed the deadline for removing Huawei equipment and services from critical network activities from January 2023 to December 2023. The government made the decision after consulting with telecom providers and operators.

The government stated that the goal of removing all Huawei equipment from Britain’s 5G networks by 2027 would stay intact. It also prolonged the obligation to limit Huawei to 35 percent of the entire fibre access network by three months, moving the new date to October 2023. Britain chose to ban Huawei and other suppliers deemed a significant security risk out of its 5G networks in 2020.

A costly exercise

The ban, which became legislation last year, compels operators such as BT, Vodafone, and Hutchison to switch to alternate providers and ultimately remove Huawei equipment from their networks. The government of Prime Minister Liz Truss has dispatched legal notices to 35 UK telecom network operators to enforce the change legally.

Britain initially said that it would permit Huawei to participate in the deployment of 5G networks. However, due to data security concerns, the government decided to prohibit Huawei in 2020. The Shenzhen-based company was designated as a ‘high-risk’ vendor, allegedly posing potential threats to national security. Both sides of the Atlantic are concerned that Huawei’s equipment may allow China to eavesdrop on network users.

Avoiding needless disruption

Initially, telecom companies such as BT and Vodafone were required to remove Huawei 5G equipment from their ‘core’ networks by January 2023. However, other businesses feared that the measures wouldn’t leave them enough time to remove the equipment from their infrastructure, which is an expensive procedure.

In June, BT sought an extension beyond the government’s January 2023 deadline, citing delays caused by COVID-19 lockdowns. BT CEO Philip Jansen cautioned that enforcing the prohibition too quickly may cause user network failures. As a result, the government extended the deadline to December 2023 in an attempt to remove Huawei as quickly as possible while avoiding needless network disruption.