The vendor diversity taskforce argues that 25% of the UK’s 5G infrastructure should come from smaller suppliers

At the start of 2020, under increasing pressure from the US over national security fears, the UK was still mulling its options for how to answer the question of Huawei and its national 5G infrastructure. Part of the problem, of course, was that excluding the vendor would potentially lead to over-reliance on another of the telecoms vendor giants, leading PM Boris Johnson to at one point ask: “What’s the alternative?”
While the situation with Huawei and the UK has evolved greatly since January 2020, with Huawei now set to be phased out of UK networks by 2027, this fundamental issue of a lack of choice within the telecoms supply chain remains. In response, last year the UK government set up a vendor diversity taskforce, the goal of which was to seek out alternatives to traditional telecoms tech vendors.
Now, in a report seen by the Financial Times, that task force is set to recommend that 25% of the UK’s 5G infrastructure should come from smaller equipment makers. The task force, lead by ex-BT CEO Lord Ian Livingston, said this target of a quarter should be set for the mid-2020s. According to the report, the government would not need to provide direct financial support to operators to achieve this goal, but tax breaks could be a viable incentive.
The report also recommends that the UK government works together with its political allies to contribute to the development of mobile standards, an arena in which China already plays a major role.
Such recommendations are clearly good news for the smaller vendors out there, such as US firms Mavenir and Airspan, for whom the UK offers major opportunities following Huawei’s departure. But while the focus appears to be on adding smaller telecoms vendors to the supply pool, the report also notes the importance of adding additional large vendors, such as Samsung or NEC, to directly compete with the likes of Nokia and Ericsson.
How does the removal of Huawei from the UK’s 5G infrastructure change the vendor landscape for UK telcos? Find out from the experts at this year’s Connected Britain 
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