GETTY / AFP PHOTO / CHRIS J RATCLIFFE
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Rohan Banerjee

Special projects writer, New Statesman

BT searches for third broadband equipment supplier

BT Group, one of Britain’s largest provider of broadband and mobile services, is on the lookout for a new equipment supplier as it attempts to meet ambitious government targets for rolling out full-fibre broadband connections.

The move, many industry experts suspect, is being made to reduce BT’s reliance on its current suppliers, Nokia and Huawei, who were awarded contracts to deliver new electronics to support BT’s ongoing Fibre First network project last year.

Fibre First aims to extend fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband with speeds of up to one gigabyte per second. The network currently covers approximately 2 million British homes and businesses, but is expected to connect 15 million by 2025.

BT’s fixed-line network arm Openreach has started an evaluation process seeking a third strategic vendor in the wake of security concerns around Huawei. In May, the Chinese firm was placed on a trading blacklist by the United States government amid fears it could be forced to gather intelligence on behalf of the Chinese government – something the company has repeatedly denied.

Nevertheless, the US has encouraged its allies, including Britain, to exclude Huawei from their planning for future internet connections. And BT’s decision appears to take this context into account.

“We already manage a large and diverse supply chain across our full-fibre build, and we’re constantly reviewing our options to make sure we can carry on building a high-quality network that offers great value for money,”  Openreach spokesman Richard Knowles said in a statement.