The UK must ensure smaller telecoms suppliers play a major role in the country’s 5G network following the decision to ban Chinese tech firm Huawei, according to a new report.
The vendor diversity task force, which was set up last year to lead the search for a replacement to Huawei, said smaller equipment makers should provide 25 per cent of the kit used in 5G networks.
In its report, seen by the Financial Times, the task force also said the UK and its allies should collaborate to develop standards underpinning mobile technology amid competition with China.
The government last year banned Huawei from participating in 5G networks, citing concerns its technology could be used for spying by authorities in Beijing. Huawei has always denied the accusations.
UK mobile operators now have until 2027 to remove all existing equipment made by the Chinese company from their networks.
In September the government launched the vendor diversity task force in a bid to diversify the telecoms supply chain and reduce reliance on high-risk companies.
Aside from Huawei, the UK telecoms equipment market is dominated by Swedish firm Ericsson and Finland’s Nokia.
The task force, led by former BT chief executive and trade minister Lord Ian Livingston, said the UK should set an initial target of ensuring a quarter of all kit is made by smaller providers by the mid-2020s.
This will come as a major boost to small firms such as US companies Mavenir and Airspan, which have been eyeing up a move into the UK market after the Huawei ban.
But the report also recommended that Britain should look to attract additional major vendors to compete directly with Ericsson and Nokia.
Mobile operators have previously warned of significant costs from removing Huawei equipment from their networks in the coming years.
The task force argued that the government did not need to provide direct financial support for this process, but suggested a potential tax break for operators that upgraded their networks using equipment from smaller suppliers.
The row over Huawei has further strained tensions between China and the west, with the company accusing governments of launching a politically-motivated campaign.
The controversial firm was one of the major targets of former US President Donald Trump’s crackdown on Chinese companies.
In a further recommendation, the report said the UK should try to bolster its position in the telecoms market and play a bigger role in developing industry standards.
It pointed to China’s dominant role in setting international standards and urged the UK and its allies to “meet this challenge”.