Investing in the security, resilience and development of UK telecoms networks
Over the last three weeks I have been sitting on the committee that has been scrutinising the Telecommunications (Security) Bill line-by-line. The Bill is an important piece of legislation that will put into law the recommendations of the UK Telecoms Supply Chain Review, published in July 2019.
The Bill introduces a ‘new security framework for the UK telecoms sector and is made up of two main parts;
The first part sets out what network providers must do in order to keep their networks secure and gives Ofcom the powers to enforce this. Over recent years, we have become increasingly dependent on the internet and digital communications and so protecting our telecoms networks from attack is a critical part of the Government’s role in maintaining our national security.
The second part gives the Secretary of State powers to place restrictions on any telecommunications vendor where the Government believes that there is a threat to national security. So, for example, telecoms equipment provided by the Chinese company Huawei has been identified as a ‘high risk’ vendor, and so the Bill gives the Government the power to require network providers to remove all Huawei equipment by the end of 2027.
The UK’s telecoms networks underpin our economy, our work and our day-to-day lives and have the potential to deliver economic and social benefits for the UK. But these benefits can only be realised if we have confidence in the security and resilience of the infrastructure that they are built upon. (Oliver Dowden Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
Safeguarding UK citizens and business
The Telecommunications (Security) Bill has cross party support and, once passed into law, will provide safeguards for UK citizens, businesses and our critical national infrastructure. But it also offers an exciting opportunity to transform the telecoms market by giving smaller companies the opportunity to enter the supply chain, in turn driving innovation and putting British companies at the forefront of telecoms innovation.
Alongside the Bill, the Government has published a strategy to diversify the telecoms market with an investment of £250m into a world-class National Telecoms Lab and trials with Japanese vendor NEC that will accelerate the development of ‘open-interface’ technologies. Known as OpenRAN, these technologies will foster a supply chain with multiple suppliers at every stage. As a member of the Bill committee, I asked NEC Chief Executive Chris Jackson how he thought this diversification will affect the telecoms market in the short to medium term.
This diversification strategy will make networks more secure by reducing our over reliance on a small number of providers and also removes the barriers that smaller telecoms companies face. I believe the strategy offers a great opportunity for innovative UK businesses to grow, in turn providing skilled, well-paid jobs and it’s important that every region of the UK benefits from our high-growth tech sector and the high value jobs this growth brings.
As the MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge I’ll be working with local stakeholders to make sure that Sheffield and Barnsley can take advantage of this diversification strategy so that they continue to be attractive places to set up and grow competitive, resilient and productive businesses.