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BT Seek Delay to UK Deadline for Removal of Huawei’s Telecoms Kit

Thursday, June 30th, 2022 (8:07 am) - Score 2,880
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The Chief Technology Officer for UK telecoms giant BT (EE), Howard Watson, has revealed that the operator is seeking more time from the Government for it to remove Huawei’s kit from the sensitive core of their national broadband and mobile network (this is due to be replaced by similar kit from Ericsson).

Back in 2020 the government announced that it intended to ban “high risk vendors” from future 5G rollouts (here and here), which followed various US sanctions and security concerns around the role of Chinese firm Huawei in UK networks (ZTE is also banned). The ban started to come into force from 31st December 2020 (i.e. the date when operators must stop procuring new kit) and the removal of all existing 5G kit must follow by the end of 2027.

NOTE: The decision also impacted Openreach’s fixed line broadband ISP and full fibre networks, albeit with different measures and some details are still being finalised (here).

At the time UK mobile operators warned that this decision, which also impacts existing 4G kit due to the close interdependency of such networks, could delay completion of the 5G rollout by 2-3 years and add costs of up to £2bn across all operators (except O2 as they opted to go with Ericsson for 5G). BT alone previously warned that they also expected to take a £500m hit from all this.

One of the deadlines (there are several) for this process required operators to remove all Huawei equipment from the core of their telecoms network by 28th January 2023. According to Bloomberg, BT is still trying to work to that date and has already started to migrate customers, but they have nonetheless requested more time from the Government.

Howard Watson, BT’s CTO, said:

“At the end of the day, not interrupting service for customers is the critical requirement here.”

The government has warned that operators which fail to meet the current deadline could face fines of as much as £100,000 per day. A consultation of the new technical directive was launched earlier this year (here) and the Government are expected to reveal their final decision on the proposed timetable and details for all this soon.

The precedent for a delay does exist, since the Government has already moved the deadline for operators to reduce their share of Huawei equipment to 35% of the full fibre and 5G access (i.e. non-core) networks to 31st July 2023 (i.e. 6-months later than previously announced). This reflected the difficulties that providers faced during the pandemic, while any delay to work in the core network seems to be more about ensuring a smooth migration (without downtime).

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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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16 Responses
  1. John says:

    Make poor decisions suffer the consequences. Anyone still on equipment that can be mined by a literal arm of the military under the Chinese Communist party should be getting free internet until they get migrated to a safe option

    Rather than rolling out more fttp they should’ve spent more resources fixing this vulnerability they caused for buying cheap made in china

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      To be fair, Huawei’s kit wasn’t just more affordable, it was also somewhat superior to their competitors (i.e. cheap and good, rather than cheap and crap), which is why so many operators around the world opted for it.

    2. Matt says:

      To add, “made in china” is kinda pointless, when you’ll pick up almost anything it’s made in china. (Cisco, Apple, et al.)

      Several vendors went to be pressured out of supply chain (e.g. Supermicro too), Huawei seems to have been the only one that stuck. Probably because they were taking the market in multiple areas and the “big players” didn’t like being pushed out.

      Their phones were great for example.

      Part of me assumes its “No use our kit with backdoors, not their kit with backdoors” – USA.

    3. An Engineer says:

      You’ve some evidence for the claim that the CCP can ‘mine’ Huawei hardware within operator networks, right?

      Don’t you think if this were the case GCHQ/NSA would’ve found those capabilities by now either through surveillance or reverse engineering and politicians be trumpeting the fact?

      It’d take a pretty specific set of instructions to exfiltrate data without it being blatantly obvious to anyone running intrusion detection what you’re doing. Core hardware phoning home periodically sending bulk data would be noticed.

    4. John says:

      There are many reasons for Huawei being cheaper:

      1 – Govt corrupt subsidies
      2 – Stolen tech so savings from R&D
      3 – Data mining as a source of revenue
      4 – Literal SLAVE LABOUR CAMPS

      Buying Huawei means directly supporting genocide the ongoing in East Turkestan and Tibet, labs such as the Wuhan that have caused the latest pandemic, the oppression and elimination of free speech from Hong Kong and the upcoming invasion of Taiwan. Think Ukraine was horrible? Wait until you see that delivering tanks to an island isn’t actually doable under a naval blockade

    5. Gavin says:

      @An Engineer,

      If you look up the activities of Huawei in Africa, specifically the Africa Union, then you’ll see the concerns people have.

      I also don’t understand the rest of your post as the agencies you mentioned are concerned enough to want the products out of the UK system.

    6. Mike says:

      Huawei do the best mobile routers imo.

      As for spying I am more concerned about what Western governments are doing and apparently the main issue with Huawei was their refusal to implement backdoors for the NSA in 2014.

  2. Philip says:

    The Huawei kit removal mandate is largely a political issue. Progress with FTTP deployment & GSM network reliability are far more important and useful to customers in the UK.

  3. InCryptoWeTrust says:

    Let’s not forget the complicity of all the other various organisations and Agencies that employ backdoored tech to spy on us all as exposed by the Snowden revelation. ALL big tech are suseptible to the whims and at the behest of their overlords & paymasters to be used as a means of mass survalance and data harvesting, Cisco/Juniper/Google/Facebook/Microsoft. If the idea is to secure critical national infrastructure stopping Huawei, et al is only a small part of the puzzle. The UK needs massive investment into homegrown technologies if the mission to secure national infrastructure is truly the case as opposed to what this Huawei ban is most likely to do with Geopolitical trade tensions rather than purely for security concerns (for the most part)

  4. Anthony says:

    My street is serviced by a Huawei vDSL cabinet and has been since 2014. Was all our internet usage syphoned to the Chinese government in this time? Really I don’t care if it was. This is just silly, just continue out the FTTP rollout and shut off VDSL in the proposed 2025 deadline. Stop wasting a lot of time and money replacing all these thousands of cabinets needlessly for what is only 2.5 years of use when they’ve already been in use for 10+ years….

    1. Gary says:

      This has nothing to do with the FTTC cabinets. They will remain. This is all about the core network.

    2. A_Builder says:

      It was decided, rightly, in my view that the core network was the priority to get secure and that any new build FTTP then had to be Chinese free.

      FTTC was exempted because BT want to phase it out anyway, as they don’t want to run FTTP and FTTC in parallel, for perfectly sensible commercial reasons.

  5. Chris Sayers says:

    Quite frankly this is just small beer, our snoopers charter is a greater threat to our privacy.

  6. DG says:

    It’s time to reverse course and adopt the CCP mentality for the good of Britain.

  7. Not Again says:

    Isn’t Nokia kit manufactured in China?

  8. nick says:

    i have come up with a system made from our own kit in the uk.

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