UK to exclude Huawei from role in high-speed phone network

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LONDON (AP) — Britain’s government on Tuesday backtracked on plans to give Chinese telecommunications company Huawei a limited role in the U.K.’s new high-speed mobile phone network in a decision with broad implications for relations between London and Beijing.

Britain said it imposed the ban after U.S. sanctions made it impossible to ensure the security of Huawei equipment, forcing it to start turning to other suppliers for components. The U.S. threatened to sever an intelligence-sharing arrangement with the UK because of concerns Huawei equipment could allow the Chinese government to infiltrate U.K. networks.

U.K. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said the decision would delay the 5G rollout, and add costs of up to 2 billion pounds ($2.5 billion), but that it had to be done.

“This has not been an easy decision, but it is the right one,″ he said.

The decision gives British telecoms operators until 2027 to remove Huawei equipment already in Britain’s 5G network. The operators must stop buying 5G equipment from Huawei by the end of the year.

Critically for telecoms operators, the government opted not to order firms to rip out legacy equipment manufactured by Huawei in earlier systems, like 4G. Such a decision might have caused havoc in U.K. telecoms systems.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was under pressure from rebels in his own Conservative Party who criticized China’s new Hong Kong security law and its treatment of ethnic Uighurs, as well as Huawei’s links to the Chinese government. Ten Conservative lawmakers sent a letter to Johnson demanding that he remove Huawei from “the U.K.’s critical national infrastructure.”

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