Leading UK telecom services provider BT has announced that it will remove all equipment provided by Huawei from its core 3G and 4G networks in the next two years in accordance with an internal agreement following its acquisition of EE.
BT also announced that, in continuation of its 2016 agreement, its selection process for an equipment provider for its 5G network will not accept any bids from Huawei. Its subsidiary EE carried out its first live 5G trials in October this year.
No Huawei equipment in BT's 5G network
"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.
"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. Huawei remains an important equipment provider outside the core network and a valued innovation partner," the company said in a statement.
Even though BT is currently using hardware provided by Alcatel-Lucent and Cisco in its core 3G and 4G networks, it is also using equipment provided by Huawei in its telephone exchanges as well as optical fibre for its network.
Huawei still not off the hook
Earlier this week, Alex Younger, the chief of MI6, warned that the final decision is yet to be taken on the question of deploying Chinese equipment in the UK's future 5G networks and that the stakeholders need to have a conversation before deciding on the same.
"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 quite definite position. We need to have a conversation. It's not wholly straightforward," he said.
Recently, Dr. Ian Levy, the technical director of the National Cyber Security Centre, told FT that he was concerned about the possibility of Chinese interference in the UK's telecom infrastructure.
"The thing we care about the most is the availability of the networks. Can someone in Beijing press a button and turn off every piece of Huawei kit and what does that mean for the UK networks? That's the number one concern," he said.
The National Cyber Security Centre has already warned telecommunication companies in Britain that the deployment and utilisation of equipment and services from Chinese firm ZTE would pose risks to the UK's national security.
"It is entirely appropriate and part of NCSC’s duty to highlight potential risks to the UK’s national security and provide advice based on our technical expertise. NCSC assess that the national security risks arising from the use of ZTE equipment or services within the context of the existing UK telecommunications infrastructure cannot be mitigated," Dr Levy said.