Today, MPs will be debating the future of a critical piece of our national infrastructure. The Telecommunications (Security) Bill may be a spartan title, but it will create one of the toughest security regimes in the world for our mobile and broadband networks.
There have been a lot of headlines about high risk vendors and their role in our 5G networks in recent months. But it is this legislation that will give the government, for the first time, the power to take action to protect and enhance our national security.
I’m clear-eyed about the risks posed by Huawei and other high risk vendors, and in July I announced that all telecoms providers should remove Huawei equipment from our 5G networks by 2027. Without this Bill, we can’t enforce that.
But today we’re going further, with two concrete steps towards ensuring that the 2027 deadline is non-negotiable, and to delivering greater diversity in our 5G networks.
The first step is that, alongside the Bill, today we are publishing two documents that demonstrate how the Bill’s powers could be used. Collectively, they set out a pathway to zero Huawei involvement in our 5G networks, including a new hard deadline for mobile network operators to stop installing Huawei equipment from September 2021. This will put an end to fears operators might stockpile kit in the hope a ban might be reversed.
The second step is that, under this legislation, I can ensure companies publish plans setting out exactly how they intend to reach zero Huawei involvement. And I’ll have the power to require Ofcom to investigate companies to see whether they are doing so.
But this is the critical point. We can only begin to do all of the above – including the powers to hold companies to account – if we pass this Bill. Without it, we will not have the powers in law to secure our telecoms networks.
And if we want to protect our networks in the years to come, then we have to look far beyond Huawei. This legislation raises the security bar across the board to protect us against a range of threats, including cyber criminals and state-sponsored actors.
It requires all public telecoms providers, including companies like BT and Vodafone, to adhere to stringent new security requirements which will be set out in secondary legislation. If they don’t comply, they’ll face fines of up to 10 percent of turnover, or up to £100,000 per day.
That’s the national picture. But the whole world is now in a race to upgrade to 5G – and right now, countless countries find themselves too dependent on a handful of companies who are able to deliver that transformative technology. At the moment, we’re limited to Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei, and without further action, we are at risk of being reliant on only two vendors.
This is a global problem – but the UK is going to lead the way in solving it.
That’s why we are unveiling an ambitious new Diversification Strategy that will find homegrown ways to open up the worldwide 5G market.
We are going to build a state-of-the-art National Telecoms Lab to test equipment, and invest into research and development.
And we’re going to level the playing field by finding ways to remove the technical and commercial barriers that currently stop smaller companies from entering the market.
As we exit the EU, this will help plant Global Britain’s flag in the 5G sand. We’re dedicating £250 million to kickstart the project which will help create much-needed jobs.
And we want all of the UK to benefit from this exciting new industry, which is why we’ll be launching a 5G trial with the Japanese supplier NEC in Wales, to name just one project.