BT warns it will take a decade to remove Huawei kit

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
13 July 2020

BT chief executive Philip Jansen has warned it will take a decade to remove Huawei equipment the UK’s telecoms infrastructure.

Jansen it would take five to seven years to remove Huawei from 5G infrastructure, but 10 years to remove it entirely from the network.

Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme he said: “If you were to try and not have Huawei at all [in 5G] ideally we’d want seven years and we could probably do it in five.

“If you wanted to have no Huawei in the whole of the telecoms infrastructure across the whole of the UK, I think that’s impossible to do in under 10 years.”

Jansen spoke out ahead of a government announcement expected on Tuesday, when culture secretary Oliver Dowden will make a statement in the House of Commons. The Telegraph has reported the removal of Huawei from 5G networks by 2025 will be ordered.

Jansen repeated a warning that outages would be possible if BT was forced to remove Huawei equipment too fast.

In January the government announced Huawei’s involvement in 5G infrastructure would be restricted to 35% of non-sensitive parts of the network.

At the time BT said the decision would cost the company around £500m over five years, mainly due to the cost of stripping out 4G Huawei boxes.

Since then pressure has built on the government from the US and backbench MPs to restrict Huawei further.

Dr Ian Levy, technical director at the National Cyber Security Centre, said in a blog in January that the telecoms markets is “broken” and needs to be diversified to ensure the security of networks.

“Already, we ask all mobile operators to use two vendors in their radio access network (RAN) for resiliency reasons. There are only three scale suppliers of 5G RAN kit that can currently be used in the UK: Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei,” he said.

“That’s crazy, so we need to diversify the market significantly in the UK so that we have a more robust supply base to enable the long term security of the UK networks and to ensure we do not end up nationally dependent on any vendor.”

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