UK lawmakers warn Huawei 5G may need to be banned earlier

(AP) — A committee of British lawmakers is urging the government to consider banning Chinese technology giant Huawei from next-generation mobile phone networks two years earlier than planned.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government in July blocked Huawei from having any role in building the country’s new 5G networks, amid security concerns fueled by rising tensions between Beijing and Western powers. British wireless carriers are prohibited from buying Huawei network equipment but have until 2027 to remove Huawei gear they’ve already installed in the new networks.

Parliament’s defense committee said in its report released Thursday on 5G security that while the 2027 deadline was sensible to avoid signal blackouts, delays and extra costs, it warned that the government might have to act faster.

“Should pressure from allies for a speedier removal continue or should China’s threats and global position change so significantly to warrant it, the Government should consider whether a removal by 2025 is feasible and economically viable,” the report said. “Clearly these restrictions will delay the 5G rollout and economically damage the U.K. and mobile network operators.”

The report also accused Huawei of colluding with China’s “Communist Party apparatus” though it didn’t go into details. The company denied the accusations, which were based on expert testimony about its ownership, state subsidies and China’s national intelligence law compelling companies to help with spying.

“This report lacks credibility, as it is built on opinion rather than fact,” Huawei said in a statement. The company noted that Huawei played a key role in building previous generations of British mobile networks and it should continue to be part of 5G’s rollout. “Restricting Huawei will put Britain in the slow lane, deepen the digital divide and likely push up bills.”