BT to remove Huawei tech from its mobile core network

05 December 2018 | James Pearce

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BT is set to ditch Huawei equipment from its core 4G network and prevent the mobile vendor from bidding for contracts for future 5G core infrastructure contracts, according to several reports.

The British telco confirmed reports from the Financial Times that it plans to strip Huawei tech from the core of its existing 3G and 4G networks, inherited from its acquisition of EE in 2016. This will bring the mobile operation in line with the rest of BT’s policy.

Chinese vendor Huawei has come under increasing scrutiny after a number of countries moved to block the use of its equipment on security grounds. The US, Australia and New Zealand all made moves to limit 5G deployments using Huawei technology, with the head of the UK secret service imploring the UK government to do the same.

BT could also ban Huawei from any DWDM optical transport and mobile edge compute deployments in future, with the vendor likely to be banned from bidding for 5G contracts with the telco.

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

"We're applying these same principles to our current RFP [request-for-proposal bid requests] for 5G core infrastructure. As a result, Huawei has 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."

It is the latest twist in what has been a challenging few years for Chinese vendors such as Huawei and ZTE. The Trump administration imposed a ban on Huawei and ZTE equipment for any meaningful projects and has, according to several recent reports, been putting pressure on telcos in other countries to follow suit.

Australia as already banned equipment from the Chinese vendors, with security concerns often raised due to links to the Chinese government, although sources close to Capacity said this has not been well received by a number of Australian telecoms operators.

Last month, New Zealand also took steps to exclude the Chinese vendors from RFPs for new deployments, with the government reportedly reporting to Spark New Zealand encouraging it to avoid Huawei for 5G equipment.

Huawei first began operating in the UK for 17 years and began partnering with EE in 2012, helping it to become the first UK operator to roll out 4G services. The Chinese firm said it expects to continue working with BT on 5G, although this will not be in the core network, due to BT's existing policy.

A spokesperson for Huawei said: "Huawei has been working with BT for almost 15 years. Since the beginning of this partnership, BT has operated on a principle of different vendors for different network layers. This agreement remains in place today. Since it acquired EE in 2016, the BT Group has been actively bringing EE's legacy network architecture in line with this long-standing agreement. This is a normal and expected activity, which we understand and fully support.

"Huawei began working with EE in 2012. As part of this collaboration, we provided EE with a series of innovative and competitive 3G and 4G network solutions, including core network equipment. We have never had a cyber security-related incident. Huawei has a robust cyber security assurance system and a proven track record. Our products and solutions serve customers in more than 170 countries and regions, including major carriers, Fortune 500 companies, and hundreds of millions of individual consumers. We have earned the trust of our partners across the global value chain."