back to article UK smacks Huawei with banhammer: Buying firm's 5G gear illegal from year's end, mobile networks ordered to rip out all next-gen kit by 2027

D-day has finally arrived for Huawei in Britain: UK.gov will outlaw the purchase of Huawei gear to build 5G networks by the end of this year, and from 2027 the country's mobile networks must eradicate the Chinese vendor's kit from their 5G infrastructure. This decision was a long time in the making, and comes off the back of …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Banning Huawei makes UK networks more vulnerable and more expensive

    Any provider worth it's salt would build at least two different vendors across it's core - e.g. Cisco and Huawei. This is so that any bug that hits a single vendor only effects half of the network. If it's built right that would only result in a lack of resilience rather than an impact on service.

    So what Trump's done is he's blocked the export licences of various encryption standards owned by US companies to China. Rather than write their own Huawei just bought them in under licence. Without this licencing agreement in place they cannot run encryption standards that allow them to interface with other vendors. It's not that Huawei are using some kind of Chinese spy code - they are using code written by and patented by US companies. Now Trump's stopped that.

    So the result is we just have one US vendor who can charge what they like and absolutely no resilience against bugs. There is no increase in security since as before they are running US written encryption standard code - if it's got a back door it'll be to the NSA not Beijing. Some minion in GCHQ has obviously been asked to brief the Govt on the impact of Trump's ban and the answer has been - well you can't have Huawei in the network running unlicensed software and this has been spun into some kind of security vulnerability. It beggars belief.

    All because Trump screwed up big time and needs to blame China for corona-virus in an election year. And all because Boris is a spineless oaf desperate for Trump to win a second term and bale him out with tins of chlorinated chicken when his no deal Brexit hits the fan in January.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Banning Huawei makes UK networks more vulnerable and more expensive

      Huh? Whilst I agree about Trump and his motives, the ban has got bugger all to do with crypto licenses or patents.

      There are none in practice. And even less that are USA controlled. Encryption on the internet would be screwed if there were.

      Even the new proposed SNOW-V designed speccifically for 5G is a) not American. B) Free to use

      https://www.ericsson.com/en/blog/2020/6/encryption-in-virtualized-5g-environments

  2. gwp3

    So who is going to pay for this? BT et al being forced to rip out kit bought and installed legally - I expect BT can afford good lawyers.

    1. Yes Me Silver badge
      Holmes

      What a silly question

      Dear gwp3,

      You ask who is going to pay for this. What a silly question. You, the user, are going to pay for this. Did you think it would be young Boris and his best friend Donald?

      Yours,

      A. Cynic

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    They've made various "home hubs" for BT...

    Enough reason to punish them in my book.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They've made various "home hubs" for BT...

      I believe precisely one variant of hub was made for them by Huawei. Sagemcom seem to have far more of a look in (they made the Hub 5, infamous because it is relatively easily flashed to OpenWRT)

      Huawei CPE is a lot more common in other ISPs (notably TalkTalk) and a lot of the mobile broadband / mifi type devices are theirs. If you are lucky enough to have Openreach fibre to the home, there is a very high chance the ONT is made by Huawei too. The older "Openreach white modems" for FTTC/VDSL are predominantly Huawei.

  4. Securitymoose
    Black Helicopters

    You have to have 5G

    Like you have to build bypasses, (and the rail link to Birmingham, just when people are shunning public transport big time.)

    Who is going to benefit from the rollout? The spy culture, that's who, keeping track of everyone and everything.

    5G going to cost billions? Scrap the idea and spend the money on the NHS and better broadband links instead.

  5. Evil Genius

    USA: Well done my loyal vassal. Banning Huawai pleases us greatly.

    UK: Why thank you, My Lord. Now, about this trade deal...

    USA: Yes, of course my minion. Here, have a chlorine washed chicken. No need to thank us.

    UK: Errr.

    USA: I said no need to thank us.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If security and national interest really were the issue...

    Why did uk.gov allow the (actual) Chinese state to take over Britain's largest oil fields?

    https://www.businessinsider.com/chinas-cnooc-largest-oil-operator-in-scotlands-north-sea-2016-8

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If security and national interest really were the issue...

      More importantly... build/run our nukes

      unproven Chinese reactors... what could possibly go wrong

      1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

        Re: If security and national interest really were the issue...

        Sidelining for a moment the now-questionable decision made years ago to allow China to partner the Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C reactor projects...

        Pretty sure BWR designs are already well proven. These new ones need less uranium. Yeah China has a stake in the project; that doesn't change the basic design being proven.

        But I say never lets facts get in the way of a good rant.

  7. Cliff Thorburn

    Kind of reminds me of the scenario of being in bed with the mistress and the husband walks in.

    Again, Blighty being the proverbial pork chop man in the middle, lining its nest from both east and west, unable to decide which is best, alas the one to tries to please everyone pleases no one at all ...

    http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/markup.cgi?doc=/uk/other/journals/Script-ed/2006/3_1_SCRIPT-ed_15.html&query=genetically+modified+human&method=all

    1. RPF

      The wife is in bed with the mistress? Time to join in!

      Dayam that's an image to savour :-)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Plot item in a Kingsley Amis book in which the very unpleasant lead character tries to organise a threesome with his wife and mistress only to have them take one look at one another naked and have passionate Sapphic sex, excluding him completely.

        I'm not sure how it relates to Huawei, though. It would kind of work if post November the US chummies up to the EU and leaves the UK out in the cold.

  8. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    Reading loudmouth politicians spouting off about Huawei is annoying when you know these politicians have absolutely zero technology knowledge. I mean, Dido Harding is a tech goddess to these morons.

    1. ARGO

      Yeah, it's amazing how many politicians are suddenly experts on network design. And yet in 20 years in the industry I've never run across any of them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        There is at least one - Chi Onwurah for Labour.

        She's a Chartered Engineer and did stuff at Ofcom just before becoming an MP, so is likely more switched on than the bores on the blue side

        1. ARGO

          She's probably the closest to it, but has experience in fixed broadband not mobile. And her pronouncements suggests she knows nothing about 5G security mechanisms or network architecture.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Given that much of the fixed network is based on Huawei equipment it's possible she's had a run in with it - and her role as "Head of Telecom Technology" at Ofcom presumably includes the mobile side too.

            I don't think you can aim for perfection here - unless a GCHQ/NCSC/HCSEC spook decides to go political you're not going to get someone who has coal face experience with the security implications. Despite the obvious reliance on telecommunications networks, there aren't that many of us working in the sector, let alone those with political aspirations

        2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          There is at least one - Chi Onwurah for Labour.

          There are over 100 MPs with STEM backgrounds: 57 Tory, 36 Labour, and a smattering of others: https://www.sciencecampaign.org.uk/engaging-with-policy/science-in-westminster/mps-to-watch.html

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            I assumed the OP was referring to people with a network engineering background.

            Not sure that a medical doctor or chemist or mechanical engineer will be able to weigh in on a cybersecurity topic.

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            A "qualification" to be listed seems to include membership of the S&T Committee which seems to be a fairly low bar. There are also former shadow science ministers there. Unless the shadow ministers are better qualified than their govt. opposite numbers that's a very low qualification indeed. And there's at least one person double counted.

  9. Potemkine! Silver badge

    The poodle is back

    Krusty Trump ordered, Bozo Johnson complied.

    Now that the UK is not european anymore, their US masters are in charge.

  10. Fursty Ferret

    I have to be honest - my feeling is that the anti-Huawei sentiment in the USA is purely and simply protectionism of the Apple brand. And I still think that.

    I did raise an eyebrow at the rhetoric that came out of Huawei / China in the last fortnight over this, in particular the evil-villain "you'll live to regret this" sort of stuff. I appreciate that this sort of flowery language is very much a Far East thing exacerbated by translation into English but it probably didn't help public perception here (we are, after all, a country that is so monumentally stupid a large proportion of people think face masks are an attack on their personal liberties).

    Ultimately I think that if China wants to know about vulnerabilities in our telecommunications networks the most reliable way would be to find the person who installed it and hit them with a big spanner until they divulge the details.

    The other possibility *dons tinfoil hat* is that Huawei refused to allow GCHQ to install their own backdoors in order to spy on UK residents and citizens.

    [Speaking as the owner of a Huawei Mate 20 Pro, nearly two years old now and still demolishing the competition].

    1. TimMaher Silver badge

      I’m not sure that you are really following this one @Fursty.

      No one has said we can’t buy their phones and I think their consumer goods division is quite separate from their infrastructure makers so this is probably not about Apple (unless BT are now installing Airports in their cabs).

      However, it very definitely is about Hong Kong, irrespective of any influence being wielded by the Orang One.

      This is a political dispute now and we should ban all of their kit. IMHO.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Brand damage is quite likely to carry over to the consumer division though.

        "Why would I buy a handset from them when the government says they're dodgy?"

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Trade Deal

    When we finally "get Brexit done" at the end of the year, we will need a trade deal with China, or end up on basic WTO terms. At that point I expect China to require access to UK markets for technology products bundled together to include 5G. Boris (on behalf of a one term Trump) will try to keep 5G out and as a result we will have no trade deal.

    There is an awful lot of stuff that we want and need from China. Not just finished products but components. We may well end up learning a few nasty facts of life. When it comes to fights, size and power matters

    Population UK 67 Million. Population China 1,393 million

    GDP UK 2.855 trillion USD. GDP China 13.61 trillion USD

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    CPNI / GCHQ

    Surely the 5G network is critical infrastructure so should be reviewed by CPNI and GCHQ for threat assessment.

    Lets get away from political pandering and more on the actual threat assessment.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: CPNI / GCHQ

      I'm afraid you failed the test - as do almost all of the journalists, politicians and pundits.

      Anyone referring to "the 5G network" shows their lack of subject knowledge in three words.

  13. kernel_panic

    What a load of nonsense

    Irrespective of anyone's political's stance, the way forward always was to define and agree on a wider 5G (and future Gs) standard for all carriers and vendors, comprising a comprehensive list of risks and mitigations to cover all key use cases and then let customers decide based on their risk appetite. It's not rocket science. We have it for other industries so why not just get on with it and cut across all the FUD?

    Also note the UK ban itself is on the basis that NCSC stated they can no longer assure control over Huawei BECAUSE of the new bans imposed by the US. So in essence they're technically correct. The root cause is elsewhere and is painfully obvious it's driven by politics and business as Mr. Orange is yet to publish some hard evidence.

    By 2027 when we finish removing 5G kit Huawei will likely be on 6G or perhaps even farther ahead.

    Oh well..

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    “delay the rollout of 5G”

    That's mainly down to the government, who have had the reports and could/should have made the decision months, possibly years, ago when the companies were thinking of ordering their kit for 5G

    For beancounters the value of 7-year-old kit should be near zero, but they will see the cost of replacement that kit, rather than leave it in place until it fails

    (and there will always be one forgotten site discovered to be still running ancient kit decades past that deadline)

  15. MrBanana Silver badge

    Ban all Huawei kit

    So, no Huawei kit allowed on the UK network infrastructure - does that mean I now have to turn off my Huawei Mate 9? Or can I still spend the rest of the year supposedly sending national secrets to China?

  16. Cogwheel
    IT Angle

    Huawei Firmware Question

    I have a question for the firmware experts here

    is it technically possible for Huawei to provide the source code for the products they sell which could then be compiled and compared to the code in the firmware?

    And that would then conclusively prove if it contains any nasties or backdoors ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Huawei Firmware Question

      I believe GCHQ has people embedded in Huawei doing precisely this.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Huawei Firmware Question

        But not in any of the alternatives. How reassuring.

        1. TheInstigator

          Re: Huawei Firmware Question

          You don't need any people embedded in companies that aren't your enemies ! (sarcasm)

  17. John 62

    Are we sure the alternatives are safer?

    I believe the biggest reason for this is the US sanctions affecting the Huawei supply chain, so that they can't get chips etc from suppliers connected to the USA, hence more likely to buy from shadier suppliers.

    The question is: are Nokia, Ericsson, et al suitably supported to be secure? The CCP can lean on Huawei to do its bidding, but they can equally lean on/penetrate Nokia.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Are we sure the alternatives are safer?

      I believe the biggest reason for this is the US sanctions affecting the Huawei supply chain, so that they can't get chips etc from suppliers connected to the USA, hence more likely to buy from shadier suppliers. ..... John 62

      Here's a pretty comprehensive and extensive outline/inside track on the shenanigans, John 62 ..... https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/blog-post/a-different-future-for-telecoms-in-the-uk ..... and authored by someone one would like to think knows what they are talking about.

      If that is not the case, then surely UBFCUK'd and/or there be a monumental fraud booted and afoot.

      Which alternative do you prefer to believe is the classier ACT? Almighty Brains in a Commanding Control Centre or Half Baked Nit Wits on a Jolly Cruising Holiday?

      Which presents the question ........ Do NCSC do ACTs ?...... as in Advanced Cyber Threats and/or Treats? Global Operating Devices would have you know.

  18. mego

    """Regrettably our future in the UK has become politicised, this is about US trade policy and not security. Over the past 20 years, Huawei has focused on building a better connected UK. As a responsible business, we will continue to support our customers as we have always done."""

    That concerns me greatly given China has a law requiring that all Chinese citizens in a position to spy on the west, must do so.

    Further, my sympathy for any Chinese owned company has been significantly curtailed thanks to their handling of COVID-19, and the fact that the world would not be in the position we're in had they not sought to hide it from everyone. Do not forget that people in China speaking out about this still to this day continue to "disappear" randomly.

    Lastly, theft in China for Intellectual Property is significantly high. Purchasing such high quantities of goods at a cheap price just encourages that.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Naive as it is

    Someone needs to take the high moral ground, and if the Brits can't do It who can? Maybe we just to have to accept things will cost more but in return fewer humans get their rights abused. A panacea I know, but wouldn't it be nice!

    1. Brian Gannon

      Re: Naive as it is

      This is just one example of how the UK needs to offer more than services and actually start making stuff again.

  20. TheInstigator

    Just read the the US is now denying visas to Huawei employees - my goodness they must be dangerous!

    Maybe they're all WMDs and need to be taken out by Seal Team Six or Delta Force?

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