BT will remove Huawei equipment from its core 4G network

BT has confirmed that it will remove Huawei equipment from its core 4G network. The move follows concerns raised about the Chinese company’s presence in important UK telecoms infrastructure. The process will happen over a two-year period, the Financial Times has reported.

Head of MI6 Alex Younger earlier this week questioned China’s role in the UK technology sector, positing that the UK should decide whether it is “comfortable” with Chinese ownership of the technology being used: “We need to decide the extent to which we are going to be comfortable with Chinese ownership of these technologies and these platforms in an environment where some of our allies have taken a very definite position,” Younger said.

BT, meanwhile, is already taking steps to remove existing Huawei equipment from core parts of its 4G networks. This, the company posits, aligns with an existing internal policy to keep the Chinese firm out of the centre of its infrastructure, first implemented in 2016.

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

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By extension, this also pertains to its imminent core 5G network; BT has banned Huawei from bidding for contracts to supply equipment for said network. “We’re applying these same principles to our current RFP (request for proposal) for 5G core infrastructure. As a result Huawei have not been included in vendor selection for our 5G core,” BT’s statement continued. “Huawei remains an important equipment provider outside the core network and a valued innovation partner.”

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Huawei’s uncertain future was further thrown into flux this week, with the arrest of its chief financial officer and deputy chair Meng Wanzhou. Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested in Canada on Wednesday. Details regarding the arrest have not been released, but the move comes hot on the heels of a US investigation of Huawei over a potential violation of sanctions against Iran.

Huawei has responded that is is “not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms Meng”.

As for BT’s decision to distance itself from the firm, it could stem from a recent report to the US Congress from the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, apprehended by The Guardian, which posited that the Chinese government does exert “strong influence over its firms”. For its part, Huawei has consistently denied improper links to the Chinese government.

We’ll be updating this page as and when more details emerge, so be sure to check back in.

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