Lord Ian Livingston, the former BT chief executive and trade minister, is to lead Britain’s efforts to find alternative telecoms providers after China's Huawei was barred from the country's 5G networks.
Lord Livingston will chair a new task force to reduce the country’s exposure to “high-risk" vendors like Huawei. It will also include Clive Selley, chief executive of Openreach, and Scott Petty, Vodafone's technology chief.
Britain’s network providers were ordered to strip billions of pounds worth of Huawei equipment from UK networks in July amid national security concerns. Operators have until the end of 2027 to remove all Huawei kit.
The decision came after increasing pressure from the US, which claimed that Beijing could use Huawei equipment for espionage. Huawei has continually denied the claims.
The decision to exclude Huawei leaves Finland's Nokia and Sweden's Ericsson as the main network providers.
The Telecoms Diversification Task Force will provide advice on alternative technology. Digital secretary Oliver Dowden said that Britain needed to be “confident” in the security and resilience of companies building the 5G networks.
“A more diverse supply chain is essential to reducing our dependence on individual suppliers and improving telecoms security - as well as a great economic opportunity for the UK,” he said.
“Together we will push ahead with bold ideas to break through the barriers stopping suppliers from entering the UK and put us at the forefront of innovative new mobile technologies.”
Lord Livingston said the UK was already a leading nation in the adoption of digital communications.
“It is vital that we position ourselves for the next generation of technology, particularly 5G, by having a wide choice of secure, innovative and high quality suppliers,” he said.
In a statement, the Government said it was talking to a range of large and small supplies about how it can support them to enter the market. It also said it will explore how to incentivise research and development in the sector, including accelerating the development of OpenRAN.
OpenRAN is an initiative that involves developing open-source network software that can be used by anyone and work across different equipment. It could allow new entrants into the hardware market and enable telecoms companies to build networks with kit from various providers.
Rosalind Singleton, Chair of the UK 5G Advisory Board, and Rahim Tafazolli, head of communications systems at University of Surrey, will also be on the committee.