Telecoms firms could face big fines over Huawei ban

The major UK telecoms network operators face large fines if they fail to adequately tighten security to meet the requirements of the Telecommunications Security Bill, which will remove the involvement of Chinese manufacturer Huawei in the country’s 5G network.

Companies that fall short of the new duties or do not follow directions on the use of ‘high-risk’ vendors could face fines of up to 10% of turnover or, in the case of a continuing contravention, £100,000 per day. Ofcom will be given the duty of monitoring and assessing the security of telecoms providers.

The tough new measures – presented to the UK Parliament yesterday – are aimed at strengthening the security framework for technology used in 5G and full fibre networks including the electronic equipment and software at phone mast sites and in telephone exchanges which handle internet traffic and telephone calls.

The government says that this will be a significant step to protect the UK from hostile cyber activity by state actors or criminals, attributing a range of cyber attacks over the past two years to Russia and China, as well as North Korea and Iranian actors.

The Bill will also provide the government with new national security powers to issue directions to public telecoms providers in order to manage the risk of high-risk vendors. While they are already banned from the most sensitive ‘core’ parts of the network, the new powers will allow the government to impose controls on telecoms providers’ use of goods, services or facilities supplied by high risk vendors.

Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “We are investing billions to roll out 5G and gigabit broadband across the country, but the benefits can only be realised if we have full confidence in the security and resilience of our networks. This groundbreaking bill will give the UK one of the toughest telecoms security regimes in the world and allow us to take the action necessary to protect our networks.”

New codes of practice will advise on how certain providers should comply with their legal obligations. The government says these will be published once the Bill has received Royal Assent.

In July, following advice from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), the government announced new controls on the use of Huawei 5G equipment – including a ban on the purchase of new Huawei equipment from the end of this year, and a commitment to remove all Huawei equipment from 5G networks by 2027.

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