The Culture Secretary is poised to announce a 2025 deadline to strip Huawei from the UK’s 5G network.
On Tuesday, Oliver Dowden will make a statement in the House of Commons where he will discuss the future of the Chinese giant in Britain’s telecoms infrastructure.
Ministers have indicated that they want Huawei’s hardware removed from the network within five years.
Tory MPs have pressed Boris Johnson to speed up the process to 2023. However, BT and Vodafone warned of widespread mobile phone blackouts unless they were given at least five years to strip out Huawei kit.
Andrea Dona, Vodafone UK head of network, urged that any further restrictions “look at a sensible and practically feasible timescale over several years”, while she cautioned that it would cost “single figure billions” of pounds to remove the equipment.
The original deadline for removing Huawei was 2029 but Tory rebels threatened to defeat the Government in the Commons by voting against legislation setting out the timetable. They indicated they would be prepared to compromise a date that would mean the work would be mostly completed by the time of the next election.
Sir Iain Duncan Smith, former Conservative leader and one of the 60-strong group of Tory backbench MPs demanding a complete ban on Huawei in UK infrastructure, told this newspaper a “material change” would be needed.
“It’s going to take them a while to get it out,” he said, “but 2029 won’t be acceptable. It may be 2025 but they will have to come forward with a timescale otherwise the Bill will be rejected.”