Roadmap to remove high risk vendors from telecoms network

  • Telecoms Security Bill will create new powers to control high risk vendors
  • Changes will include requirement on telecoms providers to stop installing Huawei 5G equipment from end September 2021
  • Bill comes alongside £250 million strategy to diversify 5G telecoms market with plans for a world-class National Telecoms Lab and trials with Japanese vendor NEC

Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden will say operators must stop installing any Huawei equipment in 5G networks from the end of September 2021 as the Telecommunications (Security) Bill has its second parliamentary reading.

In July, in response to US sanctions, the government announced that operators should stop procuring new Huawei equipment from the end of 2020 and remove all Huawei equipment by the end of 2027.

The September date is an important milestone in the path mobile operators must take to get to zero Huawei in 5G networks.

Today the Digital Secretary will also publish a new 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy outlining the Government’s approach to building a resilient, open and sustainable supply chain. This will tackle the issues of overreliance on vendors and pave the way for better connectivity to improve people’s lives with lightning fast connections speeds and revolutionary data carrying capacity.

Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said:

Today I am setting out a clear path for the complete removal of high risk vendors from our 5G networks. This will be done through new and unprecedented powers to identify and ban telecoms equipment which poses a threat to our national security.

We are also publishing a new strategy to make sure we are never again dependent on a handful of telecoms vendors for the smooth and secure running of our networks. Our plans will spark a wave of innovation in the design of our future mobile networks.

The new measures relating to Huawei are contained in an illustrative designated vendor direction for MPs to scrutinise. The direction makes clear how ministers may use the Bill’s powers to restrict the use of Huawei’s goods, services and facilities in 5G networks and brings together all the government’s previous announcements on Huawei.

The Diversification Strategy

The Diversification Strategy will help to mitigate the resilience risks to 5G networks ahead of the 2027 deadline. It will see the government spend an initial £250 million to kick off work to create a more diverse, competitive, and innovative supply market for telecoms.

This will not only increase the quality, security and resilience of new 5G mobile networks but will help people access the economic and social benefits brought by advances in new technologies.

The strategy sets out a number of targeted measures the government will be taking forward:

Funding a new Open RAN trial with Japanese telecoms vendor NEC. The NEC NeutrORAN project will be based in Wales and will aim to see live 5G Open RAN within the UK in 2021, testing solutions to deploy 5G networks in the most cost effective, innovative and secure way.

Establishing a world-class National Telecoms Lab. A secure research facility that will bring together operators, existing and new suppliers, academia and the government to create representative networks in which to research and test new ways of increasing security and interoperability.

Funding the SmartRAN Open Network Innovation Centre (SONIC). Partnering with Ofcom and Digital Catapult, this will be an industry-facing testing facility to foster Open RAN in the UK helping to develop a supply chain with multiple suppliers at every stage.

The strategy sets out a long-term vision for a healthy supply market, which revolves around three key pillars: supporting incumbent suppliers, which will continue to be a major part of the UK market and help the UK meet its ambitious digital infrastructure plans; attracting new suppliers into the UK market; and accelerating open-interface and interoperable technologies such as Open RAN.

The strategy will also be an opportunity to secure the UK’s position as a global leader in science and technology and harness existing expertise and investment in SMEs and R&D initiatives to grow the telecoms base in the tech industry.

The government will be seeking to lead international efforts with like-minded countries on a coordinated approach to the global issue of telecoms supply chain consolidation.

Notes

In January, the government decided Huawei should be excluded from the core of the network and sensitive sites and restricted to up to 35 per cent of the radio access network – the part of the network that connects devices such as handsets to mobile phone masts.

What does the illustrative designated vendor direction include?

The illustrative designated vendor direction reflects all of the positions previously announced by the Government and National Cyber Security Centre regarding the use of Huawei equipment and services.

It also includes a requirement that operators stop installing Huawei equipment in 5G networks from September 2021. While it was always implicit that operators would need to stop installing Huawei equipment – following engagement with industry and clearance through the National Security Council – we have made that requirement explicit.

The controls set out in the draft designated vendor direction are:

Description of requirementRelevant date
Not to make use of any Huawei equipment in 5G networks if such equipment was procured after 31 December 202031 December 2020
Not to make use of any Huawei equipment, except for fixed fibre access equipment, in any network if the manufacturing process or supply chain for such equipment has been altered as a result of changes to the United States Foreign-Produced Direct Product Rule announced on 19 May 2020 and 17 August 2020Ongoing
Not to make use of Huawei Managed Services in respect of any network after 31 March 2021, except for Huawei Specialist Maintenance Services provided in relation to Huawei equipment already installed in the network prior to 31 March 202131 March 2021
Not to install Huawei equipment in 5G networks after 30 September 2021, except for directly maintaining Huawei equipment installed before this date30 September 2021
Not to make use of Huawei equipment or services in the execution of Core Network Functions after 28 January 202328 January 2023
35% cap on use of Huawei equipment in 5G access networks, fibre to the premises (FTTP) networks, and other gigabit and higher capable access networks after 28 January 202328 January 2023
Not to make use of Huawei equipment or services in parts of mobile access networks which could provide service to subscribers located at Sites Significant to National Security after 28 January 202328 January 2023
Not to make use of Huawei equipment or services in any part of its 5G network after 31 December 202731 December 2027
Satisfying additional technical and security controls under the NCSC’s specific risk mitigation strategy for HuaweiOngoing

Diversification Strategy

The 5G Diversification Strategy will be available online here from 00.15 GMT Monday 30 November 2020.

The government continues to consult with the Telecoms Diversification Taskforce, comprising prominent industry and academy figures, led by Lord Iain Livingston. The Taskforce will advise DCMS on specific actions to reach our diversification objectives.

As well as the measures outlined above, in the Diversification Strategy the government has also committed to addressing provisions for legacy mobile technologies like 2G and 3G, including consideration of options to sunset or streamline provision of these services if it is beneficial to diversification. With 2G and 3G networks now over 15 years old and the equipment that supports it offered by just a handful of suppliers, phasing out these legacy technologies could help modernise UK networks and open up opportunities for new suppliers.

It will also look at whether current regulatory requirements on telecoms operators may be discouraging them from using new suppliers, and if these should be adjusted.

What is Open RAN?

Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN) technology is a new way of building telecoms networks where components from different suppliers can be used in a single mobile network, specifically the radio access section – the part of the network that connects mobile phones to masts.

It is based on common standards that seek to split out hardware and software elements of the network and encourage interoperability across and between suppliers. This hands mobile operators more choice, flexibility and control of their networks and allows them to choose the best equipment to suit their particular requirements or needs.

Removing the need for all components to come from the same supplier will bring a number of benefits. It will make it easier and cheaper to switch between suppliers, creating opportunities for new market entrants. It also grows the market – increasing the role of software and virtual based solutions, big data and AI – giving a broader base of companies and SMEs an opportunity to help build networks. All together this will give operators the ability to roll out more timely updates and better control capacity and direct coverage so that our networks remain secure and resilient and users stay connected to a good signal.

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