Network executives from BT and Vodafone told MPs that there would be massive signal blackouts if the U.K. decides to ban Huawei.
Huawei hardware is at the heart of BT and Vodafone’s 5G network infrastructure. If the United Kingdom forces the networks to discard this hardware, the country will be plunged into network blackouts. The telecommunications executives said that three years is not enough to pull the hardware out of their infrastructure.
The U.K. government wants all Huawei hardware banned by 2023. The government is keen on removing all the hardware because of threats to security and data privacy. There are speculations that the company is working with the Chinese government in spying and collecting user data.
5G signal blackout
Earlier this year, the government said that it is putting a limit on Huawei’s 5G market share. However, the government later said that there is a greater security risk if the company is allowed to operate. Since then, the United States, along with several European countries, have followed suit.
Due to these sanctions, the Chinese tech giant was forced to use hardware from other companies. This allowed the company to somehow bypass the restrictions imposed by the government. The National Cyber Security Center from GCHQ said that these devices might be compromised.
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— HuaweiUK (@HuaweiUK) July 9, 2020
The government is planning to impose a total ban. The main question now is when it plans to impose it. Some MPs are suggesting to set the deadline before the 2024 general election. This led many to speculate that it might be as soon as 2023.
Major networks argue that the timeline is not enough for them to scrape their network free of Huawei hardware. Moreover, they said that doing so will result in services being dropped and signal blackouts. BT chief technology officer Howard Watson said:
“To get to zero in a three-year period would literally mean blackouts for customers on 4G and 2G, as well as 5G, throughout the country.”
Technology and politics
Many commentators said that the ban is more political than a technological threat. The tech giant’s equipment is deeply embedded in almost all of the country’s telecoms provider. This proves that it is extremely difficult to remove them without significant service disruption.
Data security and privacy are two of the most important talking points in this debate. There are hints that Huawei does collect user data, and this is what led many MPs to ban its use. However, many commentators said that the widespread disruption of mobile data is also bad for a politician’s image.
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