Insights House of Commons Science and Technology Committee publishes report highlighting the risks to network resilience and security of relying on just two vendors for the UK’s 5G rollout

The Committee says that, after years of telecommunication market consolidation and the recent decision to exclude Huawei, the UK is reliant on just two equipment vendors: Nokia and Ericsson. The Committee says that the Government’s 5G supply chain diversification strategy has come too late to prevent this, and will, by its own admission, take years to achieve any success. In order to avoid similar situations arising in other technologies, the Committee says that the Government must act to urgently assess its potential dependence on suppliers of emerging technologies. The new report highlights the dependency of the UK’s 5G rollout on just two vendors, posing risks to network resilience and security.

Drawing on evidence taken throughout the course of the inquiry, the report warns against repeating mistakes as new and important technologies evolve. The Committee calls on the Government to publish a new assessment of the risks of global technological divergence of standards, and the UK’s action plan, within 12 months.

The Committee says that the recommended White Paper should identify critical emerging technologies and associated risks of dependency on high risk vendors and lay out the Government’s proposed response, including consideration of domestic capability and international co-operation, research and supply chain security, and fair, transparent standards setting.

The report notes that 5G is not the only emerging technology of critical importance to the UK’s future and sets out a series of key recommendations for the current telecommunications rollout, recently addressed in the Government’s “5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy”. Concluding that the strategy needs now to be accompanied by an action plan to implement the strategy, the Committee recommends that there should be:

  • a programme of research and development actively managed by the Government: the Government must drive the effort with industry and academia to meet its long-term objectives rather than take a passive approach;
  • a range of measures to diversify the market: OpenRAN is one route to diversification, but as its success is uncertain, it should not be regarded as a “silver bullet” for 5G supplier diversification; and
  • international co-operation: the UK accounts for a small proportion of the global telecommunications market, so international co-ordination will be critical; the Committee recommends that the Government establish a standing forum for international co-operation on diversifying the telecommunications market.

To read the Committee’s press release in full and for links to the report and evidence from the inquiry, click here.