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Networks nonplussed about Govt’s Huawei green light

Jasper Hart
April 24, 2019

Vodafone UK’s CTO has called for cooperation with the manufacturer

Networks were mainly sanguine about the news that the Government had relaxed its restrictions on Huawei’s equipment being used in new 5G networks.

The Daily Telegraph reported that Theresa May would allow the Chinese manufacturer “limited access” to help build “noncore” parts of the network including antennas.

Vodafone said it “did not have any Huawei equipment in its core network”, while Three said it would “continue to work closely with the Government and the NCSC on the issue”, and would “abide by any directions given by them”.

A BT spokesperson said: “We’re aware of the reports around a government decision on Huawei’s involvement in 5G networks. We haven’t been directly notified of any detail as yet, and we will continue to liaise with the NCSC and UK Government to understand the latest decisions around the usage of Huawei for 5G networks.”

O2 has been reached for comment.

CCS Insight director of consumer and connectivity Kester Mann added: “The news will be cautiously welcomed by UK operators for which a healthy vendor ecosystem is vital to 5G roll-out. Huawei is considered months ahead of competition and restricting its involvement could be damaging to the UK’s ambition to be among Europe’s 5G pacesetters. Already, all four network operators have signalled that they will launch commercial 5G services before the end of 2019. Cutting out the market leader would inevitably lead to higher costs of deployment which could ultimately be passed on to consumers.

“It’s important to note that this morning’s reports refer to “non-core” parts of the network which are relatively low risk and difficult to hack. It is the core part of the network that is more susceptible and contains the majority of an operator’s sensitive information.”

Last month, Vodafone UK CTO Scott Petty told the Mobile News XPO 5G Symposium that not using Huawei equipment would be detrimental to the national rollout of 5G.

He said: “We run 4G networks using Huawei equipment in parts of our network, and you’re talking hundreds of millions [of pounds] to replace parts. We can’t deploy 5G without 4G, and you can’t run one 5G vendor attached to another 4G vendor. That doesn’t technically work. So we will essentially slow down our deployments 18 months to two years.

“The UK would lose its European 5G leadership position. The UK is actually not that far behind global leaders such as China.”


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