UK authorities pushed back a deadline for operators to cut use of Huawei equipment in 5G access networks by six months, as it opened a consultation on its latest move to crackdown on use of the vendor’s equipment.

On announcing an intention to ban use of Huawei equipment in operator 5G networks in 2020, UK authorities set a timetable for the removal of existing kit with the ultimate aim of completely stripping it out by 2027.

Operators had been obliged to reduce use of the vendor’s kit in 5G access networks to 35 per cent by end-January 2023, but this deadline has now been shifted to end-July 2023 due to what the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) described as “difficulties providers have faced during the pandemic”.

The delay was flagged in a consultation document released by the DCMS covering restrictions on Huawei.

DCMS’s newly opened four week consultation is aimed at fixed and mobile operators alongside Huawei itself.

It covers already-announced measures and deadlines, but is required under the country’s recently-approved Telecommunications (Security) Act and would designate Huawei as a “high-risk vendor”.

Alongside measures announced in July 2020, the consultation also includes rules proposed later around a ban on use of “sanctions-affected equipment” in full fibre networks.

In a statement on the move, a Huawei representative said: “We note the government’s consultation and will continue to support our UK customers with our network equipment, which is recognised as being among the most secure and trusted in the world.”

“Political pressures have already forced the government to exclude Huawei from 5G, delaying its rollout by several years. These same pressures will jeopardise the rollout of fibre broadband, unnecessarily pushing up costs for businesses and families.”

“The country has the right to expect decisions to be made based on facts rather than unfounded security concerns.”