BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, has called for an informed debate about the merits of developing local 5G capability in the wake of the British Government’s ban on using Huawei technology in the 5G network. 

Back in January, the Government announced Huawei could play a limited role in the 5G network. However, it has now stated that no new equipment can be installed in the network as from 2021.

Experts have warned that removing Huawei kit from the 5G network could take between five to seven years, while removing it from the UK’s entire telecoms network could take a decade. 

Since the UK 5G network is built on top of existing 4G, 3G and broadband infrastructures, the extent of disruption caused by removing Huawei kit will depend on the depth of removal required. If Huawei equipment is removed from the entire supporting infrastructure, that will mean rebuilding datacentres and upgrading the fibre broadband networks right out to the green cabinets in the streets, all of which would cause massive disruption.

BCS Director of Policy, Dr Bill Mitchell, said: “We’ve become over-reliant on a single foreign supplier for critical infrastructure, which left us stuck between a rock and a hard place when the situation turned political. We need an informed debate about the merits of developing our own capability and how we go about that or ensuring in future there is a diverse supply chain that is resilient to geopolitical tensions.

“We also now have to be ruthlessly focused on accelerating the vitally important digitisation of the economy and our public services to make sure the UK recovers from COVID-19 as fast as possible. That needs a clear vision of how the UK will build 5G capability to underpin digital transformation without Huawei and without damaging national growth,” he said.