back to article It's better to burn out than fade Huawei: UK rolls out schedule for rip-and-replace rules

The UK's Ministry of Fun* has published its roadmap for the removal of so-called high-risk vendors from UK telecoms networks as part of the second parliamentary reading of the Telecoms Security Bill. The roadmap adds detail to the previous edicts, which banned wireless carriers from acquiring new Huawei-made equipment by the …

  1. Ben Tasker

    > It regards the US sanctions as politically motivated rather than based on a substantive and proven national security risk.

    Is there anyone - outside of the politicians themselves - who doesn't view it this way?

    This side of the pond, we had extensive security service auditing of Huawei kit and firmware - a level of access that we're not given by any of the... ahem... friendly competitors. The conclusion from that auditing seems to be that Huawei's code is shonky, needs improvement, but not malicious.

    Which I suspect kind of lines up with the experience of anyone who's actually worked with Huawei on, well, anything. They seem to ignore requirements, dream up their own spec and as a result implement some utter crap, and then refuse to fix it (suggesting you pay a lot more to have the requested changes integrated), so your deployment either runs massively over budget, or goes live with string and tape in place to work around their issues.

    Maybe it's a little harsh, but I'm not sure I have much faith that they could deliberately implement backdoors and have them work.

    In the long run, our networks will probably be better off without them, as there are a ton of technical arguments against using them, but I'm not sure state spying is anything but politically originated bullshit.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I wouldn't expect to see an explicit backdoor in Huawei code - a bit of shonkiness is all that's required to create a latent backdoor. Just sayin

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I've built lots of systems with shonkiness - perhaps I'm a secret Chinese agent and never knew

      2. EnviableOne Silver badge

        they're all shonky, Huawei, Cisco, Erricson, Nokia, Samsung, ZTE, and anyone else that matters....

        the difference with huawei is UK.GOV know exactly how shonky they are

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The sanctions are not politically motivated. They are financially motivated. Trump and his buddies wanted business to go to US based manufacturers rather than Huawei. Trump even once suggested that 5G networks jn the US could run on Apple hardware, seemingly oblivious to the fact that Apple do not manufacture any such hardware. He was also reportedly unhappy when US telcos announced plans to replace Huawei hardware with Nokia hardware. After all if he'd started telling his allies to dump all that Chinese hardware and replace it with American kit they may have been a little sceptical, but he probably never expected US telcos to start installing Scandinavian hardware.

    The real joke is how much Huawei hardware is already in UK telco's networks but not covered by these sanctions. Apparently it's banned in gigabit capable networks, but it's already rife in ADSL and FTTC networks. Openreach are a long way from completing their roll out of FTTC and while I'm aware that our government are claiming that we will all be on full fibre before long that's just propaganda. If we were all heading for full fibre openreach wouldn't be continuing to roll out FTTC (not on Huawei hardware surely?) And there are still plenty of ADSL lines in use, many of which connect to Huawei hardware.

    If this stuff was so dangerous they wouldn't want it in any network.

    However know full well that if they want every existing Huawei DSLAM, MSAN, switch or router removing from UK net works they will need to pay considerable compensation. So they are just hoping that nobody in the media notices that all that kit is out there.

    Oh and you probably don't want to know how much of that kit hasn't had its firmware updated in ten years per more.

    1. cyberdemon Silver badge

      Firmware updates

      > Oh and you probably don't want to know how much of that kit hasn't had its firmware updated in ten years per more.

      Am I the only one here who thinks that's a good thing?

      Oh here, have this encrypted binary blob and flash your rootfs with it. I've even signed it, to say it definitely came from me. Will I show you what's in it? Don't be so paranoid! Just make sure you install it regularly every time I release a new one!

      Of course, I'm not stupid, I know that zero-days exist in almost everything these days and that kit should be patched to plug them, but really, embedded stuff with a limited feature set like a 5G modem shouldn't NEED a complicated OS that is capable of executing arbitrary code, and if it's written right, there shouldn't be anything to update until the specification changes.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "The sanctions are not politically motivated. They are financially motivated."

      A distinction without a difference.

    3. Yes Me Silver badge


      "The sanctions are not politically motivated. They are financially motivated."

      There's no distinction between the two in the tRumpian view of the universe, which has apparently infected the party formerly known as Conservative. This is an incredibly stupid move that will come back to bite the UK both politically and financially, when the revitalised Chinese high-tech industry takes over in 5 or so years from now. (We all know that technically and from a security viewpoint, the Huawei kit is just as good as anybody else's.)

    4. fajensen

      Well, the only UK people really needing high speed networks with low and stable latencies are the financial industry and they will be in Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Ireland and Moldova (for the money laundering) when all this is finally done.

  3. cyberdemon Silver badge


    So in future all cheap IT gear to come from Weihua, Mao Telecoms, Alibaba, Taobao...

    Other approved suppliers include: Mossad, GRU, CIA, Intel, MS & Google but they are a bit more expensive, re-badged Taobao units with the phone-home address updated.

    Will this improve the UK's national security situation? Nope, it probably makes it worse (by poking a very powerful and already rather angry adversary)

    Will it improve the British economy? Nope.. Certainly not for the 1000-2000 UK Huawei employees, many at the brand new Huawei UK HQ in Reading..

    Will it appease the Labour peers and get Oliver Dowden CBE, out of hot water at Minifun?

    Yes, Minister!

  4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    I believe you can buy good encryption gear from Swiss manufacturers.

    1. cookieMonster


      Now I’ve got to wipe my monitor and keyboard down.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Blast

        All our allies should use these captured German enigma machines, they are totally unbreakable - honest !

  5. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

    I know El Reg is running adverts from the Chinese Communist Party, but what ever happened to not letting advertisers influence your editorial?

    1. Intractable Potsherd

      I don't suppose you'd like to give more information, would you? What do you know that experts don't?

  6. Howard Sway Silver badge

    justified by the sanctions levelled against the company by the Trump administration

    Has news filtered through to the ministry that he lost yet?

    If the Biden administration decides to change course on this ban (still a big if), will the UK gov then change course that way too?

    So much for sovereignty.

    1. Arbuthnot the Magnificent

      Re: justified by the sanctions levelled against the company by the Trump administration

      Sovereignty... the vote for Brexit was more-or-less a vote to become the 51st state IMHO...

      1. martinusher Silver badge

        Re: justified by the sanctions levelled against the company by the Trump administration

        >Sovereignty... the vote for Brexit was more-or-less a vote to become the 51st state IMHO...

        Who says we want you? Still, there's no harm in letting you dream. (Puppy kicking isn't a national pastime.)

        1. Intractable Potsherd

          Re: justified by the sanctions levelled against the company by the Trump administration

          @martin: That would just be delicious irony! "You wanted sovereignty, you've got it! Now, what are you going to do with it??"

        2. Eclectic Man Silver badge

          Re: justified by the sanctions levelled against the company by the Trump administration

          @ martinusher. "Who says we want you?"

          According to David Omand's book 'How Spies Think'* (he is a former head of the UK's GCHQ), the UK's signal intelligence gathering capability shares pretty much everything with the USA's NSA. So you've already got us by the small round things anyway.

          He seems to be quite a fan of the 'special sigint relationship', of Mrs Thatcher and Jack Straw, less so of Mr Johnson and Mr Trump though.

          *ISBN 978-0-241-38518-0, Penguin - Viking, £20 in the UK

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Still toadying to the USA?

    Wonder if this will still apply, as Trump's backside is no longer there to be licked after Jan 20th!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Still toadying to the USA?

      Ugh, please post a content warning before presenting us with thoughts like that!!!

      (Now, where did I put that mind bleach, I need it *urgently*!)

  8. carl0s

    As someone who knows that Huawei VDSL ('fibre') cabinets and end-user Openreach modems were always the first to trial or get new technologies, vs the other ones - the ECI kit (I'm not an expert in this field but am thinking of g.inp and vectoring), I do find this disappointing.

    I can only hope that our govnt will change their mind once Trump is gone and they no longer have to keep up the facade. But what can you do? That idiot could be back in control again in 2024. Maybe some kind of law will be passed that will prevent governments being taken over by complete loony tunes in future.

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      I don't think Biden and his administration will spend too much time looking into Trump's administration, its bad form. However, there are plenty of other groups -- the State of New York, for example -- that are really interested in what he's been up to but have been a bit stymied by the rules governing investigations of sitting Presidents. Also, Senator Harris (soon to be vice-President Harris) has been surprisingly quiet up to now which based on her past form should not be taken as a sign of disinterest or inactivity. She is a prosecutor by trade and is well known for playing the long game.

      My guess is that the Trump Family Business is going to come out into the open one way or another and it is going to pop the "Trump as Man Of The People" bubble big time. The magic is already showing signs of fading.

    2. fajensen

      Donald Trump or at least Trumpism will be back in 2020, because Biden is all about "Normalcy", which is exactly what fomented Donald Trump.

      Trump would have crushed Biden too in the elections if he hadn't screwed up the handling of the Corona pandemic. I guess Madeleine Albright can - in a few months time - also say that 500000 dead Americans for a regime change was "Worth It".

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        @fajensen> I guess Madeleine Albright can - in a few months time - also say that 500000 dead Americans for a regime change was "Worth It".

        Seriously? I doubt Ms Albright would be so callous. Trump's record of tax cuts for the rich, attacking the environment and sacking anyone who disagrees with him speaks for itself.

        1. fajensen

          Well, I think that if something is good enough for the brown people, then in the spirit of diversity and stuff, it should be good enough for the white people also. Colonial policies always finds their ways back home!

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          You doubt Albright would be so callous?!?

          We are talking about this Madeleine Albright?:

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Home baked recipe

    Surely the proper nationalistic thing to do is for the UK Government to invest squillions in the Raspberry Pi Foundation to create new wonderful home baked (and entirely sovereign, oh yes) network gear out of an array of Raspberry Pi's [1] tacked to, well, a breadboard of course? I give you, ladies and gentlemen, the Network Bakery! I mean, it wouldn't be more wasteful than the rest of the things they have spaffed money on this year, and might even work? [2]

    [1] How do you write the plural of Raspberry Pi without it either looking rude or greengrocery?

    [2] For quite a small value of "might"…

    1. fajensen

      Re: Home baked recipe

      Please don't give them ideas on what to wreck next. Every.Thing. is just a cash-pinata to be smashed for the fun and profits of the UK government members and their ratty, incomptent, friends.

  10. GrumpyKiwi

    Occam, his razor and all that

    You can judge just how important Huawei is to China's intelligence networks by how loudly they've shrieked over their equipment being banned.

    When Trump banned it in the US it was as if he'd wiped his ass on the Chinese Flag, said Xi looked like Winnie the Pooh on crack and that the Chinese Communist Party had spent all of WW2 hiding from the Japanese except when selling them opium*.

    When Trump threatened to ban Tik-Tok you got a little pro-forma theatre and nothing else.

    Quite clearly Huawei is strategic to them.

    * this is exactly what they did, they just don't like acknowledging it.

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