The UK Government has placed restrictions on the role of ‘high risk’ vendors in the UK’s 5G and high speed broadband networks, effectively limiting the scope of Chinese company Huawei to provide infrastructure.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DMCS) and National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) announced that high risk vendors – those deemed to pose a possible risk to national security – would be excluded from working on sensitive core parts of the network.
Alongside this is a 35% cap on their access to non-sensitive elements of the network, exclusion from all safety related networks in the critical national infrastructure, and new guidance from NCSC to operators on implementing the decision.
The move came after a meeting of the National Security Council following the conclusions of the Telecoms Supply Chain Review, which was published last year and included a technical and security analysis of protecting the country’s digital infrastructure.
It also marks a response to warnings from the US Government that allowing Huawei into the networks poses a national security risk.
Connectivity and security
Digital Secretary Baroness Morgan said: “We want world class connectivity as soon as possible but this must not be at the expense of our national security. High risk vendors never have been and never will be in our most sensitive networks.
“The Government has reviewed the supply chain for telecoms networks and concluded today it is necessary to have tight restrictions on the presence of high risk vendors.
“This is a UK-specific solution for UK-specific reasons and the decision deals with the challenges we face right now. It not only paves the way for secure and resilient networks, with our sovereignty over data protected, but it also builds on our strategy to develop a diversity of suppliers.”
DCMS said the Government will now aim to pass legislation at the earliest opportunity to put in place the powers to implement the framework.
It added that it is developing a strategy to help diversify the supply chain for communications networks, aimed at attracting established vendors who are not currently active in the UK, supporting the emergence of new entrants and promoting the adoption of open, interoperable standards.
The Government’s decision has been widely seen as an effort to balance the need for the deployment of 5G in the UK – for which Huawei is well placed to help accelerate the effort – along with the security factors caused by its close relationship with the Chinese state, and the warnings from the US on the possible effect on information sharing for security purposes.
Image by Calum Young, CC2.0 through Wikimedia