United Kingdom proposes new telecoms law to counter cyber threats

A smartphone with the Huawei and 5G network logo is seen on a PC motherboard in this illustration

A smartphone with the Huawei and 5G network logo is seen on a PC motherboard in this illustration

A Telecoms Supply Chain review last July, just before the Huawei ban, slammed British networks for relying on a few telecom vendors.

The new Telecommunications (Security) Bill proposed on Tuesday is created to boost the security standards of the entire United Kingdom telecoms network, as well as remove the threat of high-risk vendors, the government announced.

Now it is seeking to enshrine the decision in law with the publication of the Telecommunications (Security) Bill, which will be debated by parliament.

Companies that fail to do so will face heavy fines of up to 10 percent of turnover or £100,000 ($133,000, 112,000 euros) a day.

The U.S. had pressured Britain to block Huawei over its alleged ties to the Chinese state. The deadline was set to be 2023.

But to date, numerous organisations and execs from leading global telecoms have slammed decisions from European nations exclude Huawei kit from networks or mid-band 5G spectrum auctions in recent months.

"The Bill will strengthen the security framework for technology used in 5G and full fibre networks including the electronic equipment and software at phone mast sites and in telephone exchanges which handle internet traffic and telephone calls", said the government.

The Chinese company seemed to think that the defeat of Donald Trump, whose USA administration had lobbied so hard for the ban, might make ministers think again. Huawei has denied it spies on customers at the behest of the Chinese government. Meanwhile, the mobile operators are getting on with signing new deals with Nokia and Ericsson, and seem to be markedly less vocal in their claims that taking Huawei out of the equation would be a costly catastrophe.

"We are investing billions to roll out 5G and gigabit broadband across the country, but the benefits can only be realised if we have full confidence in the security and resilience of our networks", Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said.

"While they are already banned from the most sensitive "core" parts of the network, the Bill will allow the Government to impose controls on telecoms providers' use of goods, services or facilities supplied by high risk vendors", it said.

The British government said it was bringing in the ban - reversing an earlier plan to give Huawei a limited role - because USA sanctions made it impossible to ensure the security of its networking gear.

Another major thrust of the bill is to equip the Government with new national security powers to issue directions to public telecoms providers in order to manage the risk of high risk vendors.

Huawei, however, dismissed such concerns about its own operations. "This decision is politically-motivated and not based on a fair evaluation of the risks", he said in the statement.

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