British ministers are currently discussing plans to block purchase of new equipment from Chinese firm Huawei from 2023 rather than going for an immediate ban on the firm in coming weeks.
According to The Times, the MPs suspect that it will be practically impossible to remove Huawei's technology from Britain's telecoms networks by 2023, despite growing concerns about security risks and political pressure from the US.
If so that would clearly require a U-turn in the government's latest plans, leaked in the media last week, which suggested that Downing Street was preparing the ground for an outright ban on Huawei.
The Financial Times reported that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had instructed senior officials to come up with plans to cut Huawei's involvement in Britain's infrastructure to zero by 2023.
Earlier, Johnson had signed off legislation to allow Huawei in non-sensitive parts of the UK's infrastructure, but Conservative rebels demanded a complete ban on Huawei's equipment, amid concerns that they could facilitate espionage by Beijing.
Tory MPs have also pushed the government in recent months to rethink UK's relations with China amid accusations that Beijing did not disclose the real scale of the Covid-19 threat after the first cases emerged in the country in December last year.
But an anonymous government official told The Times that ministers suspect that implementing an outright ban Huawei would delay the planned modernisation of the UK's mobile networks and invalidate the government's 2025 'full-fibre broadband for all' promise, and it would also increase the cost for British firms.
"We'd be asking BT to essentially rip up the entire fibre optic network," the official said. "It would make the 2025 broadband pledge impossible."
Many British mobile carriers, including Vodafone, EE and Three, currently use Huawei's technology in their fibre, 4G and emerging 5G networks. Huawei's equipment accounts for nearly two-thirds of BT's network and one-third of Vodafone's mobile network, according to UBS Group AG analyst Polo Tang.
BT has previously said that removing Huawei's kit from its network would cost it nearly 500 million pounds.
Huawei has long been accused by the US of aiding spying efforts by the Chinese government. The US says that Huawei is ultimately controlled by the Chinese government, and that its equipment could be used by Beijing to spy on western countries.
In May last year, the US Commerce Department put Huawei in its "Entity List," barring the company from doing any business with US companies without getting a special licence from the US government.
The US government urged the UK and other allies for several months not to purchase Huawei-made 5G equipment.
After Boris Johnson government granted Huawei a limited role in building the country's 5G and fibre networks earlier this year, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that UK must reconsider its decision.
Pompeo described Huawei as a "real risk" to cyber security and warned that US intelligence information would not be allowed to pass across untrusted networks - such as those running on Huawei or ZTE hardware.
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