The States of Guernsey and local telecommunications operators are reviewing the decision by the UK with regard to the use of Huawei equipment in telecommunications networks.
The States has had regular contact with the UK NCSC (National Cyber Security Centre) and the decision is one the States, the Guernsey Competition and Regulatory Authority and local operators had anticipated. The potential threat, the mitigations, commercial and other aspects meant that there was an expectation and broad agreement of the need for similar requirements locally.
The Committees for Home Affairs and Economic Development have worked with telecommunications operators to ensure that they are aware of the UK’s stance and the likely need to adopt a similar approach against a similar timeline as that set out in the UK, and will meet again with them in the coming weeks to continue these discussions.
Deputy Mary Lowe, President of the Committee for Home Affairs said: “Our close, constitutional relationship with the UK means it’s important we are aligned on national security matters and I’d like to thank the NCSC for its work in keeping us informed in the run up to this decision. It means we’re in a position to respond swiftly to mirror these steps, and ensure our local operators can do the same”.
A Telecoms Strategy Policy Letter will be laid before the States Assembly later this year; it was originally a key part of the Committee for Economic Development’s Digital Framework but has taken on additional prominence as a core part of both the Revive and Thrive Recovery Strategy.
The decision to prevent Huawei equipment to be used in any 5G network, and for Chinese High Risk Vendors’ equipment to be removed from all networks by 2027, is not expected to have any impact in the delivery of either 5G or fibre to the home in the Bailiwick, if it is agreed by the Assembly.
Deputy Charles Parkinson, President of the Committee for Economic Development said: “The need for digital connectivity was highlighted during lockdown. Enhancing our connectivity both in terms of fixed and mobile networks and improving our fibre to the home connectivity is essential to our economy going forward, and it is one of the short term actions we need to get on with, in our Revive and Thrive Recovery Strategy”.
He continued: “We’re confident that the national security steps being taken with regard to Huawei will not affect how quickly we introduce improved connectivity. That must remain a priority, particularly at this time as we look to build back and grow our economy, following the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic”.
What is the situation regarding the Channel Islands telcos?
Airtel-Vodafone head of technical Rohit Khullar commented: ‘This decision from the UK government comes as no surprise given the much publicised national security concerns around high risk vendors such as Huawei and ZTE. Airtel-Vodafone has always used Nokia as its core network infrastructure partner, and we are committed to using only tried, tested and trusted suppliers for any future technology roll outs such as 5G, therefore the ban has no impact on us”.
Mr Khullar continued: “With connectivity as one of the key pillars of the States of Guernsey’s Revive and Thrive strategy, our global reach and partnerships with Airtel and Vodafone means we are able to leverage those relationships to deliver a telecoms infrastructure that meets with commercial, security and network resilience requirements as defined by the Governments of Jersey and Guernsey and the National Cyber Security Centre in the UK. We look forward to working with all stakeholders to support and finalise The States of Guernsey’s Telecoms Strategy Policy letter”.
Jersey Telecom (JT)
A JT spokesperson said: “JT does not use Huawei in its network. As we announced at the time of our annual results in April, we’ve already taken the decision to move away from using ZTE, our current mobile network equipment provider.
Whilst it’s clearly up to the Government and regulators across the Bailiwick to make a decision on any timing and how closely they wish to be aligned with the UK on these matters, we see no issue with meeting the UK’s proposed schedule.”
Alistair Beak, Chief Business Officer at Sure, said: “Over many years we’ve been in partnership with the States of Guernsey and have delivered a progressive, ambitious and innovative telecoms strategy to islanders and businesses in Guernsey and we look forward to continuing this.
“Sure’s 5G trial, which provided customers free access to the mobile service for the first time in Guernsey, has proved that the technology has potential to deliver faster broadband speeds. Throughout the trial, which incorporated Huawei’s 5G technology, we worked with the States of Guernsey, GCRA (Guernsey Competition & Regulatory Authority) and UK authorities to adhere to local, national and international policies and standards of application, safety and security.
“Sure’s decision on suppliers for 5G technology and the process for the issuing of 5G licenses for local telecoms operators has yet to commence. We will continue to support the States of Guernsey on the digital aspect of its Revive and Thrive strategy. We work with the goal that every household in Guernsey will have access to the same level of broadband service, which could involve fibre to the home and other technologies including 5G. Furthermore, Sure has recently announced the start of a £3m upgrade to our undersea fibre network as a foundation to this strategy, which adds to the 500km of fibre already deployed in Guernsey”.
Graham Hughes, Chief Executive at Sure in Jersey, said: “Over many years we’ve been in partnership with the States of Jersey and have delivered a progressive, ambitious and innovative telecoms strategy to islanders and businesses in Jersey and we look forward to continuing this.
“Sure’s 5G trial, which provided customers free access to the mobile service in Jersey, has proved that the technology has potential to deliver faster broadband speeds. Throughout the trial, which incorporated Huawei’s 5G technology, we worked with the States of Jersey, JCRA (Jersey Commission & Regulatory Authority) and UK authorities to adhere to local, national and international policies and standards of application, safety and security.
“Sure’s decision on suppliers for 5G technology and the process for the issuing of 5G licenses for local telecoms operators has yet to commence. As a provider of critical telecoms infrastructure in Jersey, we are working closely with the States of Jersey on the digital aspect of building back better, which could involve fibre to the home and other technologies including 5G. Furthermore, Sure has recently announced the start of a £3m upgrade to our undersea fibre network to futureproof the Channel Islands’ telecoms networks as part of our five-year investment plan.”
ZTE Corporation is a Chinese partially state-owned multinational telecommunications equipment and systems company headquartered in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China. It is one of China’s leading telecom equipment manufacturers.
In June, the US Federal Communications Commission officially designated telecommunications companies Huawei and ZTE as threats to national security.
Image by Gerd Altmann