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BT to cut Huawei out of the mobile mix

Man with severe headache

BT has confirmed it will be stripping Huawei equipment from its core 4G network, while it will also face a ban from any DWDM optical transport network and mobile edge compute rollout.

With the UK spending so much time and money creating a department in GCHQ to specifically monitor the business, making sure there are no nefarious activities, it might have thought it was safe on the isle. This assumption can no longer be held.

Reports initially emerged in the FT, though these have now been confirmed by BT spokespeople, that Huawei will be banned from any sensitive work. A point which should be made is BT has chosen not to work with Huawei for a considerable number of years, though with the EE acquisition it inherited Chinese equipment.

“In 2016, following the acquisition of EE, we began a process to remove Huawei equipment from the core of our 3G and 4G mobile networks, as part of network architecture principles in place since 2006,” BT said in a statement to our sister site Light Reading.

“We’re applying these same principles to our current RFP [request for proposal] for 5G core infrastructure. As a result, Huawei have not been included in vendor selection for our 5G core. Huawei remains an important equipment provider outside the core network, and a valued innovation partner.”

For Huawei, this is just another chapter in a miserable story which has been going on for months.

With the US imposing its own ban against Huawei and ZTE for any meaningful projects, the Trump administration has been applying pressure to allied governments around the world to follow suit. Australia was the first to buckle, perhaps sacrificing a handy trading relationship with China in pursuit of a closer tie to the US, though New Zealand followed suit. South Korea is another to ignore the Huawei riches, though in this case the Chinese firm was omitted from the telcos preferred supplier lists as opposed to an outright ban.

What impact this has on Huawei’s fortunes remains to be seen, though this issue does seem to be confined to the EE business.

Looking at the Vodafone infrastructure, there is Huawei kit on the radio side and also a limited presence in transmission, though Huawei has not touched the core. This is what would be considered the most important area, as it is considered the intelligent component of the network.

Over at Three, the story is relatively similar. The company has a multi-vendor landscape, though the core network is Nokia. Huawei is providing some 5G RAN equipment, though Three emphasised to us it has been in constant conversation with the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) to make sure the right checks and balances are written into the Huawei contract.

“We are monitoring the situation closely, but at present have no concerns about partnering with Huawei,” Three said in a statement. “We went through a rigorous procurement process, during which time we worked closely with the NCSC to understand their concerns and address them. As our 5G solution is being built from the ground up, we can ensure that the latest security and privacy features are delivered as standard.”

The problem which BT seems to have found itself in is Huawei equipment in the core network, something which might concern the security conscious branches of government. This was inherited through the EE acquisition, though it does seem to be limited to the BT/EE business. O2’s core is a mix of Nokia and Ericsson, while less than 5% of its network infrastructure use Huawei components.

The fallout for the moment is pretty limited as such, though if the UK maintains its current position, Huawei will escape with only a couple of bruises. As it stands it is very difficult to do any meaningful rollout without Huawei’s radio equipment, such is its leadership position in the segment.

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One comment

  1. Raphael Charit 05/12/2018 @ 2:57 pm

    As much as there is a lot of innovation in China, we must try and keep the know how within the western world. Actions like that are greeted and push to develop solutions that may be more expensive , but then much more adapted to what is exactly needed. Without “Made in the Old World” we will totally loose our identity and become completely dependent on the Chinese economy and politics.

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