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UK goes big on OpenRAN as it tightens Huawei sanctions further

In keeping with the current political climes, the UK government has decided to unilaterally impose further constraints on what mobile operators can do with their own networks.

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) unveiled yet another ‘Roadmap to remove high risk vendors from telecoms network’, as it ungrammatically called it. The headline restriction is that operators must stop installing any Huawei equipment in 5G networks from the end of September 2021.

Since operators already had to get rid of all Huawei kit by 2028, this stipulation seems redundant. Furthermore it marks a further escalation of government meddling in the affairs of these private companies. How they go about hitting the 2028 deadline should be down to them and, if it suits their purposes, stopgap use of stockpiled Huawei kit should be fine so long as it’s gone by then.

“Today I am setting out a clear path for the complete removal of high risk vendors from our 5G networks,” said Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden. “This will be done through new and unprecedented powers to identify and ban telecoms equipment which poses a threat to our national security.” You can tell he’s loving those powers, can’t you? Here’s the ‘clear path’.

Description of requirement Relevant date
Not to make use of any Huawei equipment in 5G networks if such equipment was procured after 31 December 2020. 31 December 2020
Not to make use of any Huawei equipment, except for fixed fibre access equipment, in any network if the manufacturing process or supply chain for such equipment has been altered as a result of changes to the United States Foreign-Produced Direct Product Rule announced on 19 May 2020 and 17 August 2020. Ongoing
Not to make use of Huawei Managed Services in respect of any network after 31 March 2021, except for Huawei Specialist Maintenance Services provided in relation to Huawei equipment already installed in the network prior to 31 March 2021. 31 March 2021
Not to install Huawei equipment in 5G networks after 30 September 2021, except for directly maintaining Huawei equipment installed before this date. 30 September 2021
Not to make use of Huawei equipment or services in the execution of Core Network Functions after 28 January 2023. 28 January 2023
35% cap on use of Huawei equipment in 5G access networks, fibre to the premises (FTTP) networks, and other gigabit and higher capable access networks after 28 January 2023. 28 January 2023
Not to make use of Huawei equipment or services in parts of mobile access networks which could provide service to subscribers located at Sites Significant to National Security after 28 January 2023. 28 January 2023
Not to make use of Huawei equipment or services in any part of its 5G network after 31 December 2027. 31 December 2027
Satisfying additional technical and security controls under the NCSC’s specific risk mitigation strategy for Huawei Ongoing

Aware of the consequent near-duopoly in the 5G kit market this ban of Chinese vendors has created, Dowden also decided to bang on about OpenRAN, which he’s decided solves that problem.  “We are also publishing a new strategy to make sure we are never again dependent on a handful of telecoms vendors for the smooth and secure running of our networks,” he said. “Our plans will spark a wave of innovation in the design of our future mobile networks.”

As part of this diversification strategy the government is chucking £250 million into the pot ‘to kick off work to create a more diverse, competitive, and innovative supply market for telecoms.’ Some of that is going NEC’s way, as part of the previously announced deal with the Japanese government. There will also be a new national telecoms lab that is expected to contribute to the collective effort, as is the OpenRAN-focused SmartRAN Open Network Innovation Centre.

“As Chair of the Telecoms Diversification Taskforce, I fully support the ambition of the strategy and its objectives,” said Lord Livingston, who was appointed to his position by the government. “In order to position ourselves at the forefront of the next generation of technology, it is vital that we invest in R&D, help shape global standards and work closely with our international partners.”

In effect the UK government is bribing incumbents with public money to play ball and picking winners among prospective OpenRAN vendors according to political criteria. As ever, the private sector will trouser the public wedge and then just do what it wants, making sure publish supportive quotes every now and then. If there is the need for new vendors, the market doesn’t require state intervention to fulfil it.

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2 comments

  1. Avatar Jerome 03/12/2020 @ 6:56 am

    It’s not because Hwahwei has any weakness of their almost perfect 5G performance. it is because Boris Johnson was out of his mind suddenly embraced Donald Trump ideology citing hwahwei imposes a security threat. Hwahwei has done excellent job for UK on 4G and 3G network infrastructure for almost 2 decades without one single security instance, on the contrary, Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel got her phone hacked and listened for 10 years by US CIA, which means US has 10 times more security threat than Hwahwei even in other US president era other than Trump. Boris Johnson suddenly changed his course to embrace total Open Ran is guiet risky and suicidal.

    In part, Open Ran does give end user options to choose hardware freely by openware, nevertheless, hwahwei infrastructure did have exact same approach to this flexibility. But Hwawei’s ‘open’ only limit to base station to different retailers ( end customers) only. In contrast, the Open Ran alliance claims they want a pure open software and wireless in every corner of 5g even in the core system, because they can not catch up what Hwawei’s has done for last 10 years work. They are thinking of working together to share and develop those codes together to every telecom software developer so that they will beat Hwaiwei.

    However, pure Open Ran is suicidal for its security. Wireless and openware will just invite 100 times more chance to be hacked, and there is no solution for it unless they can overturn Tuing’s trade off computing theory.

    Open Ran alliance claims they can recommend lots of layer of security code in software and hardware driver for vendor’s ecosystem to maintain to withheld hacking. My experience tell me 1. Eventually, coding those security layer will be even more complicate than communication itself. 2. After year 2025, IoT will be implemented throughout modern cities, if you drive a auto control car or house appliance system by much less secure system like Open Ran, do you feel safe?

    As a matter of fact, Errison was somewhat unwilling to promote using Open Ran citing serious security problem, same as hwawei, they agree to partily implement it in base to small end user site to accommodate more hardware equipments instead of going to gaint telecom vendors.

    The number one advocator of Open Ran alliance is Nokia( actually Nokia someday will be an America company), which was under tremendous encouragement and pressure from William Barr, his motive started from trying to beat hwaiwei. Boris Johnson was brain washed by Pompal, so he crazily thought Open ran was the solution. I am not against two system to complete, but if you want to change your course suddenly, you have to consult many real expert to do it. To tear off old system completely is stupid, the hardware cost is one thing, but the harm of delaying and putting entire country in a insecure system might cost the fade of the great Britain. Boris Johnson used to be a great London mayor, I ever shed tears for him knowning he was critical by coronavirus.

  2. Avatar Alec 07/12/2020 @ 3:44 pm

    Moving away from Chinese Huawei, was a great accomplishment by the Boris govt, as Huawei was suspicious from day one because of close involvement with CCP government and because of serious security concerns, which was rightly highlighted by US. OpenRAN is the future and it takes out Monopoly from big giants and allows many smaller players to take part and increase competition and innovation.

    ORAN is a great step forward

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