Lord Livingston will serve as chairman of a new taskforce designed to broaden the UK telecoms industry’s supply chain, Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman revealed on Wednesday.
The so-called Telecoms Diversification Taskforce will be headed up by the former BT boss and will include members from the telecoms industry and academia, Warman announced at Connected Britain, naming Openreach CEO Clive Selley and Vodafone UK CTO Scott Petty as examples of the former. The body will provide expert advice to the government as it moves to reduce Huawei’s influence in the market.
This autumn the government will introduce new security legislation following its July U-turn on banning Huawei 5G equipment. operators will no longer be permitted to buy Huawei 5G equipment from the start of next year and must rip out all Huawei 5G kit by the end of 2027.
That legislation will give the government the power to “limit and control the use of high-risk vendors,” Warman reminded the industry on Wednesday. “It is also crucial…that we diversify our telecoms supply chain so that we’re not overly reliant on a small number of vendors,” he said. Hence the taskforce.
The government has not yet shared much information on what the taskforce will actually do though. According to Warman, its members will pass opinion on diversification efforts already carried out by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and its future plans, with the government having engaged closely with Lord Livingston over the summer and meetings having already begun.
“The plan has to be to move from strategy to implementation rapidly,” but without rushing down the wrong route, Warman explained, like a politician.
The body is geared towards bringing about “sustainable and lasting change in the supply chain,” Warman said. Through the taskforce the government is collaborating closely with operators, UK and global vendors, and “new and emerging suppliers.”
“It is vital that we position ourselves for the next generation of technology, particularly 5G, by having a wide choice of secure, innovative and high quality suppliers,” said Livingston in a subsequent DCMS press release. “I look forward to chairing this team of experts from industry and academia who can provide advice to government as to how it can best achieve these aims.”
All of which suggests that while the government wants rid of Huawei, it is keen to avoid seeing another big player take its place as a semi-dominant vendor in the 5G market. Or to put it another way, it won’t let Nokia become the new Huawei.
Here are all the members of the taskforce:
- Lord Ian Livingston of Parkhead (chair)
- Rosalind Singleton, Chair of UK5G Advisory Board
- Clive Selley, CEO, Openreach
- Scott Petty, CTO, Vodafone UK
- David Rogers, CEO, Copper Horse
- Professor Rahim Tafazolli, Head of Institute of Communication Systems, University of Surrey
- Professor Dimitra Simeonidou, Professor of High Performance Networks, University of Bristol
- Dr Scott Steedman, Director of Standards, British Standards Institute