November 30, 2020
Balance is key to the Telecoms Security Bill and an effective 5G Diversification Strategy
Today Parliament debates the Telecoms Security Bill at Second Reading, legislation that will have a major impact on the mobile sector.
In tandem the Government has also published its 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy, to build resilience and diversification into the telecoms supply chain.
Both are hugely important and, while Mobile UK and our member operators have welcomed each, we also want to be clear that for them to be effective they must work in balance and not compete against each other, and that certainty in time frames must be maintained.
The Telecoms Security Bill, brought about to further enhance security in telecoms networks, sets out a path for the removal of high-risk-vendors (HRVs) from the UK’s 5G networks. It also enables a formal framework for establishing and monitoring compliance with the new Telecoms Security Requirements (TSRs).
The Government, recognising that the removal of the HRVs will create additional costs to industry, delays to 5G and an over-reliance on only two major suppliers, has developed its Diversification Strategy.
The strategy sets out a medium to long-term plan to promote more open networks, diversification and resilience in the telecoms supply chain, while also providing an opportunity for the Government to back British companies in emerging fields such as Open RAN technology, and to sustain and nurture UK talent and businesses.
Balance is key - the two measures must not work against each other
The Telecoms Security Bill and the 5G Diversification Strategy are intrinsically linked. It is critically important that they don’t compete with each other and are in balance. If one is too dominant, the impact of the other could be drowned out.
The Diversification Strategy is a welcome response to the measures in the Bill. However, if the race to bring in new entrants means a weakening of security requirements for potential new vendors compared to incumbents, the strength of the TSRs for the whole sector could be compromised.
On the other hand, if security requirements are too burdensome, creating insurmountable barriers for new players to attract investment and enter the market, the effort and resources being put into the Diversification Strategy will be wasted.
The TSRs must be joined-up, even-handed (and not create weak links), guard against properly assessed threats, and be well measured.
Keeping to the 2027 timetable for the removal of 5G
The absolute key to success for the Diversification Strategy is sticking to the 2027 timetable.
Not only is the removal and replacement of the HRVs a major task for most of the UK’s mobile operators (the Government’s own research suggests a cost to the industry of £2bn), but the Diversification Strategy makes clear it will take a few years for alternative suppliers and alternative technologies such as OpenRAN to develop to the point where they can compete on an equal footing.
A forcible acceleration of the HRV programme would cause needless disruption to the operators and their customers, and the aims of the Diversification Strategy would be completely frustrated. Enough time must be given for the UK ecosystem to grow and for alternatives to get commercially ready.
The Diversification Strategy is a very positive development for the sector and the wider UK economy, with the potential for creating and attracting high-skilled jobs and investment. But it must be given time to bear fruit.
About Building Mobile Britain
Building Mobile Britain is a campaign created by Mobile UK seeking to work with national and local government, as well as interested industry groups to overcome the challenges we face with expanding the existing mobile networks, while also developing innovative services for customers.
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Head of Policy and Communications
Tel: 07887 911 076