Exclusive: four European Vodafone companies are 100% Huawei

Exclusive: four European Vodafone companies are 100% Huawei

04 June 2020 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Four mobile networks run by Vodafone in Europe use exclusively Huawei equipment, and another four have more than 50% of their equipment sourced from Huawei.

The figures come from Strand Consult, an independent Copenhagen analysis company, in a report due to be published later this year.

John Strand, CEO of the company, told Capacity: “Vodafone has taken a calculated risk. Vodafone has put all its eggs in a Chinese basket.”

The Vodafone numbers are just part of wider research Strand Consult is carrying out into Huawei’s market share across all European telcos – not just Vodafone’s. But Vodafone clearly stands out, said the CEO: “Huawei’s market share at Vodafone across Europe is bigger than Huawei’s market share in any of the Chinese operators,” he told Capacity.

This is certain to cause concern among European politicians who believe the use of Huawei kit creates a security threat – something consistently denied by Huawei. The US has also campaigned against the use of Huawei kit among its allies, and the company is not allowed to supply US operators.

The Strand Consult research shows 100% reliance on Huawei in four European operations of Vodafone: the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary and Romania.

In Vodafone Spain, 67% of equipment is from Huawei, says Strand Consult; in the UK, the proportion is 62%.

Vodafone Germany has 53% of equipment from Huawei. Italy is the lowest among the countries surveyed so far, with 50%.

The numbers are not yet in for other Vodafone operations in Europe. Vodafone has operations in 12 European countries. Numbers are not yet in for Albania, Ireland, Portugal and Turkey. It also owns 50% of Vodafone Ziggo in the Netherlands.

Contacted by Capacity, a Huawei official in the head office in Shenzhen, southern China, said: “We don't disclose share information without explicit customer agreement.”

A Vodafone official said: “We don’t breakdown vendor shares by country because that is commercially sensitive so I am unable to comment specifically on the accuracy of the numbers you shared.”

However, Vodafone added that “these will be estimates” for the whole of its footprint, including 2G, 3G and 4G as well as “a relatively small part” for 5G.

“Further, these estimates will not be reflective of technology use in the network core, where the sensitive data is processed,” said Vodafone. “We announced in February our decision to remove Huawei from the core in Europe.” That will take four to five years, said the Vodafone executive.

Vodafone Group CEO Nick Read said in February that the company has decided to remove Huawei technology from its core network at a cost of approximately €200 million. However, Vodafone does use Huawei kit in its radio access network (RAN). 

In late January the UK government said “high-risk companies” – a term that includes Huawei – would be banned from all safety-related and safety-critical networks in critical national infrastructure and security-critical network functions, and would be limited to 35% in all other areas.

BT warned that it would cost £500 million to remove Huawei equipment from parts of its network under the government’s decision to limit the vendor’s role in the UK’s 5G plans.

Germany also tightened its limits on non-European vendors in a move in February.

Strand Consult has yet to complete its research on other operators’ use of Huawei kit across Europe. Last year Strand Consult estimated it would cost European operators $3.5 billion to remove kit from Huawei and its Chinese rival, ZTE.