The UK government was warned against repeating past mistakes when it comes to potential dependency of suppliers of emerging technologies, with a committee concluding the country’s 5G rollout is too reliant on just two equipment vendors.
In a report, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee described the UK’s supply chain diversification strategy, established in November 2020, as “too late”, noting that after years of consolidation and a decision to exclude Huawei, it only had a supplier pool of Ericsson and Nokia for 5G deployments.
It said this “posed risks to network resilience and security”.
Going forward, the committee said the government must act now to avoid the same situation as new and important technologies evolve, noting 5G is not the only “emerging technology of critical importance to the UK’s future”.
In a series of recommendations, the committee said there should be a programme of research and development managed by the government, which should drive an effort with the industry and academia to meet long-term objective rather than take a passive approach.
Secondly, the government should explore a range of measures to diversify the market.
It noted while open RAN was “one route to diversification”, its success was uncertain and it should not be regarded as a “silver bullet” for 5G supplier diversification.
Finally, the government should target international cooperation on market diversity, with the committee noting the UK accounted for a small proportion of the global telecoms market.
MP Greg Clark, chair of the committee, said there had been a “lack of foresight in 5G”, which left the country in this position.
“We must learn from this experience to avoid making our economy and security vulnerable from a lack of acceptable alternatives in emerging technologies.”