Huawei ban won’t damage UK tech industry, say IT experts

Martyn Landi, PA Technology Correspondent
·2-min read

The majority of IT professionals do not believe the UK’s decision to ban Huawei from 5G will cause long-term damage to the country, new research indicates.

Following the Government’s decision to strip out Huawei equipment by 2027, the Chinese company warned it would “move Britain into the digital slow lane, push up bills and deepen the digital divide”.

However, a survey by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, found that 53% of IT professionals do not agree with that statement, while just over half (51%) said they felt Huawei’s removal would make the UK network safer.

The Government’s decision on Huawei followed advice from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which said US sanctions imposed on the firm would compromise its ability to safely be a part of 5G networks.

Ahead of the full removal target of 2027, a ban on the purchase of new Huawei 5G equipment will come into force at the end of this year.

The survey of just under 3,000 industry professionals, carried out in response to the decision, found that 48% felt that the 2027 target was feasible, compared to 27% who said they felt it would not be possible.

In addition, 48% of those surveyed said they were not concerned about the consequences of Huawei’s removal.

However, the research did find some acknowledgement in the industry that the ban could have at least some impact on UK tech development – 28% said they believed tech development in Britain will stall without Huawei, while 31% said they were concerned about the consequences of the ban.

Furthermore, only around half (51%) said they believed a completely trustworthy supply and manufacturing chain in 5G networks was achievable even after the removal of Huawei.

Another 31% said the UK would be no safer with Huawei gone.

Dr Bill Mitchell, director of policy at BCS, said: “Huawei’s claim that the UK will somehow be thrown into a dark age without them looks like hubris, according to most IT professionals.

“While our survey results show broad support for the Government’s decision, most experts also feel that no 5G infrastructure can be guaranteed as totally trustworthy.

“The Government’s challenge now is to build on public backing for the Huawei decision, by ensuring standards of high competence, ethics and trust throughout the tech industries, as it develops the alternatives.

“The UK’s focus must be on accelerating the digitisation of the economy, including promoting digital apprenticeships and T-Levels, investing in digital-first public services, and dealing with the digital divide, if we are to boost social and economic renewal after Covid-19 and Brexit.

“This will require intelligent planning for how the UK builds 5G capability to underpin digital transformation – without Huawei’s involvement and without damaging economic growth.”