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U.K. Lawmakers Ask Johnson to Consider Faster Huawei 5G Ban

Thomas Seal
·2 mins read

(Bloomberg) -- A committee of U.K. lawmakers called on the government to consider banning China’s Huawei Technologies Co. from fifth-generation wireless networks two years earlier than the current 2027 plan.

“Should pressure from allies for a speedier removal continue or should China’s threats and global position change so significantly to warrant it, the government should consider whether a removal by 2025 is feasible and economically viable,” the politicians wrote in the report into the security of 5G networks, published Thursday.

Such a move would impose heavier costs on telecom operators and the economy, but international tensions could force the U.K.’s hand, the House of Commons Defence Committee said in the report.

In July, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government said phone companies would be banned from buying 5G equipment from Huawei at the end of this year and compelled to remove the gear from networks entirely by 2027. Officials said U.S. sanctions introduced in May made it impossible to verify the security of Huawei’s supply chain. A limited Huawei presence was previously considered a manageable risk.

A debate to vote the 2027 ban into law is expected in coming months. Some lawmakers have suggested they will agitate for an earlier removal, arguing Huawei is influenced by China’s Communist government and constitutes a security threat, which the company denies.

If the ban is shifted two years earlier, government should look at compensating operators such as BT Group Plc and Vodafone Group Plc for ripping out equipment before the end of its usable life, according to the report. BT has said complying the current ban will cost it 500 million pounds ($646 million), and that a ban in fewer than 5 years could cause signal blackouts.

The report also recommended reviewing China’s presence in other critical parts of the U.K. economy, bolstering government powers to intervene if diplomatic tensions sour, and supported the idea of a “D10” alliance of democracies that could support alternatives to Chinese technology.

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