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Laurie Clarke

Reporter

Vodafone and BT say it would take five years to cut out Huawei equipment

Vodafone and BT have chimed into the furore over Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s 5G network, cautioning it would take five years and cost billions to remove the firm’s equipment.

Head of networks at Vodafone UK Andrea Dona told UK lawmakers that the company needed a “sensible time scale” of several years to comply with any further Huawei restrictions, with a minimum five year transitional plan.

BT said it would also require a minimum of five years, and ideally up to seven, to remove Huawei from its network if it was required to do so. Chief technology officer Howard Watson said the company had already started trialling the shift of some Huawei network sites to other vendors.

Although Huawei was granted a role in 35 per cent of the UK’s 5G network in January, new US sanctions mean that the company will no longer be able to use American chips in its supply chain. Due to be imposed in September, the looming sanctions have increased security concerns over which suppliers Huawei would rely on to manufacture chips. In light of this, whether to include Huawei in the UK’s network or not has again become a heated topic of debate.

On Monday, China’s ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming warned that a ban on Huawei from the UK’s 5G network would damage Chinese trust in the UK and throw into doubt its belief that the UK can develop a foreign policy independent of the US, which is strenuously pushing for Huawei to be cut out entirely.

Samsung is attempting to fly to the rescue, with the executive vice president Woojune Kim saying the company can “definitely” supply a new 5G network in the UK.

Speaking to UK lawmakers he said the company was already in discussion with European operators to supply network equipment, and was investing in 4G, 5G and 6G technology.

He said: “The one thing that is a challenge for Samsung entering the UK or European market is more related to request for single RAN technology, or I would say more like 2G, 3G technology, the legacy technology.”