UK Telecom Firms Face Huge Fines If They Breach Huawei Ban

November 24, 2020 Updated: November 24, 2020

Britain’s telecoms companies could be fined up to 10 percent of turnover or £100,000 ($133,140) a day if they fail to comply with a ban on using equipment made by Chinese tech giant Huawei under a new law put forward on Tuesday.

The Telecommunications (Security) Bill will give the government “unprecedented new powers to boost the security standards of the UK’s telecoms networks and remove the threat of high-risk vendors,” the government said in a statement.

In July, in response to U.S. sanctions on Huawei, which is believed to have close ties to the Chinese regime, Prime Minister Boris Johnson banned the firm from further input into the UK’s telecoms infrastructure by the end of 2020, and set a deadline of 2027 for the stripping out of existing kit from the country’s 5G network.

The new draft bill, which needs to pass through Parliament to become law, “creates the powers that will allow the government to enshrine those decisions in law and manage risks from other high-risk vendors in the future,” the government said on Tuesday.

The bill will also provide the government with new national security powers to issue directions to public telecoms providers if needed to manage risks from certain vendors.

“Companies that fall short of the new duties or don’t follow directions on the use of high-risk vendors could face heavy fines of up to 10 percent of turnover or, in the case of a continuing contravention, £100,000 per day,” the government said.

The new rules are a major step toward protecting the UK from hostile cyber activity by state actors or criminals, the government said, citing previous cyber attacks attributed to Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran.

“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,” the UK’s Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said.

“This ground-breaking 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.”

British telecom firms are already switching from Huawei to its main rivals Ericsson and Nokia.

Last month, BT selected Ericsson as its partner for 5G deployment in major UK cities including London, Edinburgh, Belfast, and Cardiff, managing around 50 percent of their total 5G traffic.

In September, BT signed a contract with Nokia to provide 5G radio equipment for multiple towns and cities across Britain, as well as rural locations.

Mary Clark, Reuters, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.