The United Kingdom announced on Tuesday that it would bar Huawei from its 5G networks, in a major about-turn by the government that could signficantly ruin its ties with China while appeasing the United States.
In his speech in the Parliament, UK Secretary of Culture Oliver Dowden disclosed that the country's mobile network operators would be forced to stop acquiring equipment from Huawei by year-end. They'll also need to cut Huawei hardware out of their network by 2027.
The role of the Chinese tech group has become a central theme in Britain's increasingly shaky relations with Beijing.
It is a major change of heart for the UK, which gave Huawei limited access to the next-generation mobile networks in January. Mobile network companies had to cut the share of Huawei equipment in non-core components of their networks to 35 percent by 2023 under previous conditions.
Dowden admitted the decision would scale back efforts to create 5G in Britain by around three years and cost the telecommunications industry billions. However, he defended the decision by citing concerns about national security.
In a statement he delivered before the Parliament, Dowden said the move "has not been an easy move but it's the right one for the UK's telecoms networks, for our national security and economy," Yahoo Finance quoted him as saying.
Washington has pressured the UK for months, claiming Huawei is a security risk because the group could be used by the Chinese government to eavesdrop on the West. Both Huawei and Beijing have repeatedly denied such allegations.
Tuesday's policy turnaround handed a major triumph to U.S. President Donald Trump's administration in its geopolitical and trade tussle with China.
But the move threatens to further dent the UK's relations with the Asian giant and carries a big cost for UK mobile operators that have relied on Huawei infrastructure for almost two decades.
5G technology promises faster internet speeds and the capability to support more wireless equipment – from mobile gaming to better-quality video streams – and even in autonomous vehicles that can communicate with each other.
Banning the acquisition of new Huawei equipment and slashing the Chinese vendor's market share to zero by 2027 would result in an "accumulative delay" of up to three years and cost as much as 2 billion pounds ($2.5 billion), Dowden warned.
Britain's move is a major blow to Huawei, which had been fast-tracking its investment into Britain with a new research and development facility in Cambridge, and a push for developers at the start of the year to help the Chinese group build an alternative to Google's Play app store.