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Ex-BT CEO to Help UK Gov Hunt for New Telecoms Suppliers

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020 (1:36 pm) - Score 2,688
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The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has announced that the Ex-BT CEO and former trade minister, Lord Ian Livingston, will lead a new “Telecoms Diversification Task Force” to help diversify the UK’s telecoms (mobile and broadband) supply chain and reduce reliance on high-risk vendors like Huawei.

Back in July 2020 the UK Government, after a lot of dithering, finally banned new core and non-core 5G mobile kit from Chinese technology giant Huawei (existing kit will remain until 2027). Meanwhile FTTP broadband networks and ISPs were advised to “transition away from purchasing new Huawei equipment,” although whether or not they will face stricter rules is due to be decided as part of a future technical consultation (here).

One problem with this approach is that it leaves network operators, particularly mobile providers (Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia tend to dominate the global supply chain), with a restricted selection of credible suppliers. In response that Government are due, later this year, to publish their Telecoms Diversification Strategy that will seek to address such “market failure” and propose ways of diversifying the supply chain (with a focus on boosting competition and innovation).

Before then DCMS has announced the new Telecoms Diversification Task Force, which will be headed up by Lord Ian Livingston and “provide independent expert advice to the government as it works towards diversifying the network so that telecoms companies do not have to use high-risk vendors like Huawei or rely on individual vendors to supply equipment in their networks.”

Task Force Members

Lord Ian Livingston of Parkhead (chair)

Rosalind Singleton, Chair of UK5G Advisory Board

Clive Selley, CEO, Openreach

Scott Petty, CTO, Vodafone UK

David Rogers, CEO, Copper Horse

Professor Rahim Tafazolli, Head of Institute of Communication Systems, University of Surrey

Professor Dimitra Simeonidou, Professor of High Performance Networks, University of Bristol

Dr Scott Steedman, Director of Standards, British Standards Institute

NOTE: Dr Ian Levy, Technical Director of NCSC and Simon Saunders, Director of Emerging Technology at Ofcom will also be available to the task force to provide technical advice.

Oliver Dowden, UK Digital Secretary, said:

“To deliver the revolutionary benefits of 5G networks for people and businesses, we need to be confident in their security and resilience. A more diverse supply chain is essential to reducing our dependence on individual suppliers and improving telecoms security – as well as a great economic opportunity for the UK.

Under Lord Livingston’s leadership, this task force will use industry expertise to turbo charge the delivery of our Diversification Strategy. Together we will push ahead with bold ideas to break through the barriers stopping suppliers from entering the UK and put us at the forefront of innovative new mobile technologies.”

Lord Livingston, Chair of the Diversification Task Force, said:

“The UK is already a leading nation in the adoption and use of digital communications.

It is vital that we position ourselves for the next generation of technology, particularly 5G, by having a wide choice of secure, innovative and high quality suppliers.

I look forward to chairing this team of experts from industry and academia who can provide advice to government as to how it can best achieve these aims.”

We wouldn’t be at all surprised if one of the outputs from this was a greater march toward Open Radio Access Network (OpenRAN) deployments and a move to encourage major operators in other countries, such as perhaps Samsung in South Korea, to play a greater role in the UK market by expanding their product set. Retaining compatibility with UK / EU standards and spectrum will be vitally important for interoperability.

Indeed, the Task Force has already said that it will explore how to incentivise research and development in the sector, including accelerating the development of open and interoperable equipment which can be used by multiple vendors, such as OpenRAN.

On top of that the forthcoming Telecoms Security Bill will give new powers to the government to control the presence of high-risk equipment vendors, and to Ofcom to drive up security standards.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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6 Responses
  1. Avatar joe says:

    Will OpenRAN be able to pick up the slack without a degree of co-op between providers that will potentially need exemptions around competition law. I’m not sure on that one.

    I’ll now glare at the DCMS press team – Lord Ian Livingston indeed :-/

  2. Avatar A_Builder says:

    Hmmme I’m not sure that this is a good choice.

    His leadership didn’t exactly set BT up for great things: did it?

    Mostly notable as was his predecessor(s) for a penny pinching approach to domestic investment whilst throwing money around on international ventures.

    The BT story is almost a repeat of the General Electric -> Marconi -> Telent fiasco and the last bit of the fiasco was only avoided because BT were ‘stuck’ with a copper cash cow that for years subsidised appalling mismanagement: otherwise they would probably have sold that off!

    1. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

      I’ll agree. He’s not an ideal candidate for the job. Then again knowing this government I’m surprised they just didn’t outsource the role to Serco.

  3. Avatar Graham hillman says:

    It’s bit like asking a failed Banker to get a plan together to make Banks work.doh…. HM Gov needs to look at people who have done it the hard way and make money . I e. Gamma Telecom, BT and it’s former leaders crashed the Company, get real for Gods sake.

  4. Avatar chris conder says:

    you couldn’t make this stuff up.

  5. Avatar The Facts says:

    They could try Yellow Pages.

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