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BT to strip Huawei's tech from core mobile networks

BT to strip Huawei's tech from core mobile networks

BT Group announced that it will not use equipment from Huawei Technologies in its next-generation network and will begin the process of stripping it from the core of current 4G and 3G mobile operations just days after New Zealand and Australia abando

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06.12.2018 09:37 PM

BT Group announced that it will not use equipment from Huawei Technologies in its next-generation network and will begin the process of stripping it from the core of current 4G and 3G mobile operations just days after New Zealand and Australia abandoned plans to work with the Chinese company on 5G.

On Wednesday, BT said that Huawei's equipment does not feature in the core of its own fixed-line network and that internal policy drove its recent decision. BT acquired mobile operator EE two years ago and is only now moving forward with plans to remove Huawei's tech from those networks to bring it in line with the wider business.

The UK telecoms giant said that it will continue to work closely with Huawei on operations outside the sphere of its core network, which means that Huawei's equipment will not be in use for 5G. In a statement, a BT spokesperson said: "As a result, Huawei have 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."

BT made no mention of the "significant national security risks" cited by New Zealand’s intelligence agency after the country's largest telecoms carrier, Spark, announced a ban on the use of Huawei’s equipment in its plans for an upcoming 5G rollout. New Zealand later said that it rejected Huawei due to technological risks and issues rather than it being a Chinese company.

"It's not about the country; it's not even particularly about the company; it's about the technology that is proposed," New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau Minister, Andrew Little, said on national radio in late November. While the United States has urged its allies to abandon the use of Chinese equipment amid fears about cyber security, Little said that the decision did not have any influence from outside third parties.

5G networks are set to deliver a significant change in the performance of mobile networks, with superfast Internet access providing the foundation for revolutionary technologies ranging from the Internet of Things (IoT) to augmented reality (AR) and self-driving cars during the next decade. Plans are now beginning in earnest to get next-generation networks up and running. 

Many expected BT to work with Huawei, as the two companies have a close relationship dating back nearly 15 years. Huawei has been operating in Britain since the turn of the millennium. Its equipment has undergone regular checks and monitoring by an independent body overseen by both the government and intelligence operators.

While BT did not touch on any cyber security concerns, Britain's MI6 Chief, Alex Younger, flagged an issue with the apparent need to rely on Chinese technology for upcoming 5G networks. He said that the matter needs further discussion. "We need to decide the extent to which we are going to be comfortable with Chinese ownership of these technologies," Younger commented on Monday.

Huawei is not concerned about the latest developments, however, and the company said in a statement that the move by BT was "a normal and expected activity, which we understand and fully support." Six years ago, Huawei began working with EE and provided key network solutions for 3G and 4G networks that also covered core equipment.

The company also allayed growing concerns in Western countries regarding cyber security and suggested that it should be a reliable partner for global telecoms companies. Huawei is currently the world's biggest manufacturer of network equipment. It said: "We have never had a cyber security-related incident. Huawei has a robust cyber security assurance system and a proven track record."

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