UK government launches new task force to help diversify the telecom industry supply chain

UK government launches new task force to help diversify the telecom industry supply chain

On September 23, 2020, the UK government announced plans to launch a new telecoms diversity task force aiming to find new suppliers capable of filling the gap after the ban on Huawei equipment. Following the implementation of the task force, telecom operators won’t have to use Huawei supplies – considered high-risk – or be obliged to rely on specific vendors in the market.

The task force will have 9 members coming from a diversified background: Rosalind Singleton UK5G Advisor Board Chair, CTO at Vodafone Scott Petty, the Director of Emerging Technology at Ofcom Dr. Ian Levy and two other professors from the University of Surrey and the University of Bristol will be participating.

Mobile operators in the United Kingdom are prohibited from buying 5G infrastructure equipment from Huawei, starting from the end of the year. After this move, only two vendors are left in the British market, Ericsson and Nokia. The UK National Cyber Security Centre NCSC said that the dependence on two suppliers would introduce a long-term security risk. “This restricts choice and poses a risk for the security and resilience of the UK’s future digital network”, according to the government statement.

Back in January 2020, the UK government announced that Huawei would be limited to a 35% market share. Telecom operators that use Huawei were also asked to remove existing infrastructures by 2027. However, the National Cyber Security Center NSCS was forced to introduce a complete ban on Huawei after new sanctions imposed by the White House. These sanctions would lead Huawei to buy computer chips from less trusted manufactures.

The UK telecoms diversity task force comes to address market failure in the United Kingdom. The task force is crucial for the UK telecom industry as it will help boost competition and innovation in the market.  The strategy is set to build an open, sustainable and diverse telecoms supply chain, according to News on News.

The task force would be led by Lord Livingston of Parkhead, a Conservative peer and the former chief executive of BT Group. Lord Livingstone said, “It is vital that we position ourselves for the next generation of technology, particularly 5G, by having a wide choice of secure, innovative and high-quality suppliers”. Moreover, he added, “I look forward to chairing this team of experts from industry and academia who can provide advice to government as to how it can best achieve these aims”, according to Sky News.

Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said, “To deliver the revolutionary benefits of 5G networks for people and businesses, we need to be confident in their security and resilience. A more diverse supply chain is essential to reducing our dependence on individual suppliers and improving telecoms security – as well as great economic opportunity for the UK”. And, he added, “Under Lord Livingston’s leadership, this task force will use industry expertise to turbo charge the delivery of our Diversification Strategy. Together we will push ahead with bold ideas to break through the barriers stopping suppliers from entering the UK and put us at the forefront of innovative new mobile technologies,” according to IS Preview.