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BT Miss Deadline to Remove All Huawei Kit from UK Core Network UPDATE

Tuesday, Jan 2nd, 2024 (8:49 am) - Score 8,040
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Telecoms giant BT (EE), and possibly several other UK network operators, have reportedly missed the 31st December 2023 deadline to remove Huawei’s equipment from their network cores. This puts them at risk of being fined up to 10% of their revenue or £100,000 per day for every day that they fail to comply.

Just to recap. In 2020 the government announced that it would ban “high risk vendors” from future 5G mobile 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 removal of all related 5G kit is intended to be achieved by the end of 2027, but before then there are a number of interim targets that must first be achieved.

NOTE: The 31st Dec 2023 date already reflects a significant extension vs the original target of January 2023.

The requirements also impacted fixed line broadband ISP and full fibre (FTTP) networks, such as those supplied by Openreach, Hyperoptic, CityFibre and others, albeit with different measures (see below). The Government formally issued its related Designated Vendor Direction (DVD) to 35 UK telecoms network operators in 2022, which put their policy on a legal footing and reiterated the final targets.

So far as we can tell, most of the affected broadband and mobile operators seem to be making the right level of progress, and EE has also met a related deadline for reducing Huawei’s kit in its mobile network (i.e. the 35% cap on use of Huawei equipment in 5G access networks after 31st July 2023). But we won’t know the full picture until Ofcom issues its next progress report to the Government in the spring of 2024.

Huawei Controls for UK Mobile and Fibre Networks

➤ An immediate ban on the installation of new Huawei equipment in 5G networks;

➤ A requirement not to install any Huawei equipment that has been affected by US sanctions in full fibre networks.

➤ A requirement to remove Huawei equipment from sites significant to national security by 28 January 2023; and

➤ A requirement to limit Huawei to 35 per cent of the full fibre [FTTP] and other gigabit-capable access networks by 31 October 2023;

➤ A requirement to remove Huawei equipment from the network core by 31 December 2023;

➤ A requirement to remove Huawei equipment from 5G networks by the end of 2027;

According to The Telegraph (paywall) and several other reports, BT has now missed the 31st December 2023 target for their core network (it’s technically already been extended twice – party due to the COVID19 pandemic) and will most likely be pushing for another extension to avoid paying a hefty fine. The government does have some sympathy for this and is mindful of the pressures their sudden policy U-turn created in 2020 (network operators plan their builds years in advance, thus any sudden change was always going to have big repercussions).

Mobile operators have previously warned that the decision to remove Huawei, which also impacts existing 4G kit due to the close interdependency of such networks, would delay the completion of the 5G rollout by 2-3 years and add costs of up to £2bn across all operators (less for O2 / VMO2 as they opted to go with Ericsson for 5G). BT alone has previously warned they would take a £500m hit from all this.

A Spokesperson for BT said:

“We’ve met our initial targets – both RAN traffic levels and sites were below the levels required by the Government for its July 2023 deadline. Our focus is now on work in the core for the Government’s deadline.”

At the time of writing, a Government spokesperson would only say that they’re continuing to work with network operators to “remove Huawei technology as quickly as possible while minimising disruption for consumers” (moving too fast would result in mass connectivity problems) and “remain on track” for the ultimate goal of full removal by the end of 2027.

The lack of stronger language in their official response suggests, at least to us, that they’ll probably give BT, and any other operators that might be struggling, more time to achieve the most recent target.

UPDATE 11:59am

We’ve had an updated statement from BT today, which helps to put their progress into context.

A BT Group spokesperson said:

“All 4G and 5G data sessions and voice calls are now delivered by non-Huawei core equipment – meaning that over 99% of all core traffic is now being served by non-Huawei kit.”

In other words, the only voice and data services to be migrated are 2G and 3G, which accounts for less than 1% of the total traffic. The 3G switch-off process is already tackling part of this.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
54 Responses
  1. Avatar photo time traveler says:

    Oh, bravo to BT for their stellar performance in the ‘Let’s Remove Huawei Equipment’ Olympics! I mean, who needs efficiency when you can keep missing deadlines and turning it into a never-ending saga? The government’s enthusiasm for setting deadlines must be their way of encouraging GPO to embrace the thrill of perpetual incompetence. It’s like watching a masterclass in how to make a simple task feel like a never-ending soap opera. A round of applause, please!

    1. Avatar photo anonymous says:

      It’s BT, why would anyone be surprised they missed a deadline.

      In my opinion, and the BT fans will disagree:

      1. They are arrogant and think they can do things when they decide.
      2. They’ve always been slow for anything. Only competition from ALTNETS and VM have made them deploy FTTP for example else they would still sweat FTTC.

    2. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      3. when you run critical national infrastructure and have been told that the most critical and complex part of it needs replacing, it turns out it might take some more time than the political deadlines dictated.

      I’m sure commentators, MPs, etc would be frothing if the switchover was botched and they’d caused an outage. So far it seems that, where services have been migrated, it’s been seamless to customers.

    3. Avatar photo 125us says:

      A simple task? Wow.

    4. Avatar photo anonymous says:

      No one said simple task. It really isn’t and I get that. Lets face it though, the government could have a 10 year delay and they would still be too late delivering.

      If they couldn’t achieve they should have gone back with hard facts and figures, even a legal challenge.

    5. Avatar photo XGS says:

      ‘No one said simple task.’

      https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2024/01/bt-miss-deadline-to-remove-all-huawei-kit-from-uk-core-network.html#comment-297476

      ‘It’s like watching a masterclass in how to make a simple task feel like a never-ending soap opera.’

  2. Avatar photo Richard Branston says:

    I personally think that the procurement complexity of removing Huawei from the core was underestimated.

    In this case the Govt has mandated that companies must replace existing equipment and only buy new equipment from 2 available suppliers.

    Now go and negotiate good commercial terms with the two when they know you have to buy from one of them.

    Aside from then tech complexity, the ability to source replacement or new kit within affordable budget envelopes and existing Capex plans (likely 5-10 years) is a lot harder than most people realise.

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      It’s easy. ‘time traveler’ and ‘anonymous’ on ISP Review say so.

    2. Avatar photo 125us says:

      Add in the development work to unexpectedly add a new supplier(s) and boxen to your OSS.

    3. Avatar photo - says:

      How did you work out only two suppliers?
      4/5G core perhaps nokia, Ericsson are the two most likely but for an IP/MPLS core there’s easily a dozen vendors.

  3. Avatar photo Sam says:

    Sanction BT

    1. Avatar photo The facts says:

      Why?

  4. Avatar photo RR-the-it-guy says:

    As stated above I do agree that the target would be impossible, no networks of that scale can change the volume of networks hardware and reconfigure it all to be the same as another vendor it’s not as simple as export config and reimport, they could go unplugging core routers and switches but then ofcom will go knocking on the door asking why there is national downtime.

    There is no scenario where changing core hardware can go to plan especially with a core so large across large geographical areas.

    This is especially true if you consider that Openreach and others have FTTP targets so have to choose what they meet, it’s not possible to do both, not unless you mass hire and fire after the hardware change is done which is likely to go down well

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      No impact on Openreach, they don’t operate the IP core.

      No need for a mass hire and fire: temporary contracts for this one project.

      An awful lot that could go wrong to slow it down, though. From software issues to compatibility issues to simply not having rack space, power supply or adequate cooling for new chassis next to old Huawei kit. So many issues that would only become evident during the project.

  5. Avatar photo Ben says:

    Anyone know how this affects Zen’s “Plexus” network? (see https://www.zen.co.uk/blog/posts/zen-blog/2018/02/09/how-plexus-came-about/).

    I assume they have to go back to the drawing board…

    1. Avatar photo Anon says:

      That longs since been replaced now

  6. Avatar photo Random Precision says:

    BT could be fined £100,000 a day…….I wonder who’ll end up paying for that?

  7. Avatar photo Fibre Scriber says:

    Going to be all things to all people on this one. Yes, undoubtedly BT are slow at all most everything, one only has to look at the time it has taken to bring forth the new router, which turns out to be branded EE. Most likely all UK consumer routers from BT will now be branded EE going forward. On the point of the slow removing of Huawei equipment from the network, i believe this will be more complicated than even Openreach have anticipated, as they are now finding out, and will need extra time to complete at a good price. Bring On The Branston!

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Openreach haven’t removed anything. They’ve reached the 35% of FTTP target by not building more Huawei and instead building out Nokia and Adtran. They do not operate the BT core or transport networks they provide the duct and fibre.

    2. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Pretty big difference between new wireless routers for customers and replacing big chunks of core network, too. Not quite the same teams working on each project or even the same business units.

      Have a looksie at https://www.bt.com/about/bt/our-company/group-businesses

      Consumer will be responsible for the wireless routers, Openreach for FTTP/C and as I wrote above have gotten Huawei FTTP headends below 35% just by not using them and building a load of Adtran and Nokia, and Networks for the Huawei removal project.

    3. Avatar photo Fibre Scriber says:

      Openreach/BT, separated, but not really separate. (SEMANTICS) The headline of this article reads, “BT Miss Deadline to REMOVE All Huawei Kit from UK Core Network UPDATE” So not just by fitting Nokia + Adtran and using less Huawei equipment!

    4. Avatar photo Fibre Scriber says:

      * less/no Huawei equipment.

    5. Avatar photo XGS says:

      I specifically mentioned FTTP. The FTTP kit isn’t core network. From the point of view of the core network FTTP is just IP, same as everything else.

    6. Avatar photo Fibre Scriber says:

      FTTP kit isn’t core network, goes without saying!

    7. Avatar photo XGS says:

      So what was with ‘i believe this will be more complicated than even Openreach have anticipated, as they are now finding out, and will need extra time to complete at a good price.’ and disagreeing with my statement ‘Openreach haven’t removed anything. They’ve reached the 35% of FTTP target by not building more Huawei and instead building out Nokia and Adtran.’?

    8. Avatar photo Fibre Scriber says:

      BT, as the headline of the article says, have missed the Deadline to remove all Huawei equipment from the Core Network. If the problem is using the term Openreach, rather than BT then as i said before, (SEMANTICS)

    9. Avatar photo Fibre Scriber says:

      Latest update, which I have just read now, has BT now saying only 1% to reach the HMG requirement.

    10. Avatar photo Oldtimeuser says:

      …”one only has to look at the time it has taken to bring forth the new router, which turns out to be branded EE. Most likely all UK consumer routers from BT will now be branded EE going forward.”…

      So we can take it that you did not see all the news articles here and elsewhere about BT seperating it’s products, BT have moved consumer/residential over to EE, so therefore people will be getting EE branded hubs.

      BT are keeping business customers etc, therefore they get the Business Smart Hub 3

      Residential will get EE branded Smart Hub, which is equivalent of BT Smart Hub 2, or if going for 1.6gb tier, the Smart Hub Plus, which is equivalent to BT Business Smart Hub 3.

      There is no difference to BT hubs, they are the same just rebranded as EE.

      You can still order BT Broadband as a consumer for now, time will tell when they stop selling that to normal residential consumers.

      However, mobile and TV have moved over to EE, BT Digital Voice will obviously work whilst BT provide residential broadband, after that you’ll most likely have to take EE Digital Home Phone service equivalent.

    11. Avatar photo Fibre Scriber says:

      Hi @Oldtimeuser, Have a look at my reply to a post on the BT/EE rise in traffic over the Christmas period, Fibre Scriber, 7:05pm, if your post is aimed at me, you will find I know all about that! Cheers.

  8. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

    Just our government following Trump and the U.S again. there is nothing to prove that Huawei is a security risk and if there was something in the equipment then I am sure it would have been picked up. Knee-jerk reaction from our government, would not shock me if they are not involved in some way with what will replace Huawei equipment, which is no doubt made in China anyway.

    I would love it to be equipment designed and produced in the U.K, but it will not be. Sure I would like to avoid Chinese stuff, not because of security, but because it would be nice to buy stuff that is produced in the U.K. But sadly that is more difficult these days and what is produced are stupid prices.

    One slice on my Toaster have gone belly up, it is a Dualit, cost me £75 about 10 years or so ago for a four slice unit, which is pretty expensive for a toaster, but it is made in the U.K. a new one, the same model will now cost £119, it is the DUALIT Lite 46213.

    so now my toaster is a 3 and half slice toaster 🙂 I could pick up a cheap one for £15, that is made in china.

    1. Avatar photo Patrick says:

      Huawei is an arm of the People’s Liberation Army, the CCPs military. Buying Huawei is literally funding the invasion of Taiwan and other neighbor countries in the short to medium term

      Remember when Germany was told having Russia as their main energy supplier was a terrible idea? This is the same exact case

      To avoid even giving up 1% of core infrastructure control to the CCP, it is much better to spend more money

    2. Avatar photo Jacek Borkowski says:

      If the morons running this country hadn’t shut down most of our gas production and storage facilities we would be energy independent and selling our surplus to Europe. Our energy bills would be considerably lower than they are now.

    3. Avatar photo Patrick says:

      Or built more nuclear plants like France and Finland

      Instead they doubled down on stupid and subsidized Chinese solar panels and wind turbines. Even though it is heavily subsidized, it still does not work. The birds sure hate them

    4. Avatar photo 125us says:

      Wind and solar are by far the cheapest energy sources in the UK. Energy bills are high because wholesale electricity is sold, as mandated by government, at the price it would cost if generated by gas.

    5. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      UK made Dualit is typically a lot more expensive than that, like £150 for a 2 slice toaster – though they’ve been doing “right to repair” long before it was cool. Usually straightforward enough to buy everything from the toaster elements to the mechanical timer from them.

    6. Avatar photo Fibre Scriber says:

      If a toaster is £150, wouldn’t like to be buying a replacement element for it. Most expensive toast in the UK, I think!

    7. Avatar photo Jonny says:

      A Dualit toaster is actually a good investment if you can afford the up-front cost. Look after it and it will last a lifetime, or at least as long as Dualit are around for. Spare parts are a very reasonable price (elements are £8) and the company is great at supporting their products.

      Not sure this is relevant to a network core, though.

    8. Avatar photo Alun Cox says:

      £7.80 for a replacement element doesn’t appear exorbitant. Easy to replace as well.
      https://www.dualit.com/products/spare_00457

    9. Avatar photo Fibre Scriber says:

      So at £8 for an element, @Ad47uk will be pleased to hear that his toaster is not TOAST. Surprised by the small price for an element on such an expensive toaster. Totally agree have no idea what this has to do with Huawei equipment removal, but interesting just the same.

    10. Avatar photo Fibre Scriber says:

      DUALIT, The Apple of Toasters!

    11. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      Removing Huawei now is shutting the door after the horse has bolted. The time to shut China out was 35 years after Tianemen Square showed us the true nature of China and before we let them take our manufacturing. Too late now.

    12. Avatar photo John says:

      The horse has bolted so let’s not only ramp up giving them more money but let’s allow them to destroy our youth with the number #1 app tiktok (which by the way, their own domestic version is completely sanitized and doesn’t have any of the mental illnesses promoted)

    13. Avatar photo WesternAgenda says:

      What are you on about Patrick? Look it up. Taiwan is part of China.

  9. Avatar photo DaveZ says:

    It would be fascinating to learn what was found and where that precipitated this response, especially in light of the spiraling costs to the comsumer. The scale of the panic here is such as to suggest it is not just politics/economics, although I agree we should not have infrastructure dependent on a potential enemy, or even our so called friends for that matter, as a matter of principle. (Not a fan of the US in particular, “as the special relationship” seems to be based on us bending over).

    1. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      I think there probably was a lot of sabre rattling on the US’s part, in terms of existing equipment. The UK is probably the best placed five eyes country to make the risk determination as they already get access to IP/source code via the HCSEC agreement, and previous reports suggested there was nothing too horrifying other than the usual software engineering pitfalls.

      Though it was backed up by action as the US then banned Huawei from using any US origin silicon in its products (eg their VDSL cabs used Broadcom chips), and the UK gov says that’s why they had to ban any use of new Huawei equipment.

      It was a bit rich for the Trump admin to claim we’re threatening national security when the US leaks from both the top (all the top secret docs at Trump’s home) and the bottom (that national guard guy who was uploading stuff to Discord)

  10. Avatar photo Nick Roberts says:

    I don’t know what all the fuss is about, given that at the retail consumer end of the market, HMG are more than content that Chinese manufactured laptops,desktops, mini PCs/media servers have been and continue to be imported, in volume, branded or unbranded. . . . Many more of them that Huawei street box electronics.

    The classic, elephant in the room, of course, are the TPM hardware devices (And soft devices) dstorage encryption devices which are now a mandatory fitting to computing equipment wishing to install and run Windows 11 (And, for all I know, possibly many other operating systems). Most of these come from China, and come in the form of micro-sized circuit boards, which are purchased separately from the computer motherboard, under brand names that you and I have never heard of and, in the case of homebuilds are fitted by the user to the motherboard before play can begin.
    The majority of new PC purchased or built in the last two and a half years will have some sort of TPM device fitted.

    These are devices which have the potential to close down access to storage media at the stroke of a key . . for good or malign purposes.

    Its unlikely that any foreign power minded to undermine and disrupt another nations IT would advertise the fact by marking the components it was selling ” A gift from . . . the PLA”.

    I notice that some of the recent home-build motherboards (From Taiwan, no names, no pack drill) appear to be following the lead of the major off the shelf manufacturers and including their own TPM software in the UEFI BIOS. Hmmm !

    In fact some of the home build motherboard manufacturers appear to have gone to extra-ordinary lengths to ensure that the user finds it easier to use the TPM software built into the BIOS than to install a separate hardware micro TPM board, even though they still provide the pin mounting on the motherboard to mount the TPM hardware. In one case I know of, one Taiwanese manufacturer moved the location of the TPM mounting as between succeeding marques of the same board (2017 to 2022) from the edge of the motherboard, where the TPM micro board could be installed without interfering with other components, to near the centre of the board, where it was almost impossible to install without bumping into the CPU fans and voltage regulators.

    Bad design ? Co-incidence ? Or a crafty bit of political, commercial and licensing manoeuvering designed to avoid upsetting the competing interests of “Him-in-doors-in-Beijing” and western enterprise and IT security ?

    1. Avatar photo tech3475 says:

      AFAIK the dongles aren’t as necessary these days thanks to fTPM (or equivalent), at least it’s good enough for W11 on my AMD systems.

      I haven’t touched a physical TPM dongle, all of my systems which don’t have some kind of compatible TPM are all running (officially) unsupported CPUs anyway.

    2. Avatar photo XGS says:

      I’ve no idea where to start with this one. Genuinely none.

    3. Avatar photo 125us says:

      So many words. So little relevance. So much nonsense.

  11. Avatar photo FibreBubble says:

    If it is only EE 2g and 3g affected, BT should be cut some slack to allow for kit retirement.

    1. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      3G maybe (though the RAN for that is not Huawei anyway), but 2G’s not going anywhere any time soon

      The Ericsson sales bumpf implies that 2G/3G is being handled by the new core. At least it will do so eventually. https://www.ericsson.com/en/cases/2023/bt-and-ericsson

      I suppose there’s so little 2G/3G traffic that it wasn’t the migration priority.

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