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Telefonica plans to reduce use of Huawei kit as it rolls out 5G networks

Telefonica, one of Europe’s largest telecoms providers, is preparing to reduce its reliance on Huawei by diversifying the pool of suppliers it uses in the core of its 5G networks.

The Spanish telco’s chief technology officer (CTO) Enrique Blanco said on Tuesday that the company had seen no evidence of allegations, denied by Huawei, that the Chinese firm’s product are unsafe or that they could be exploited by Beijing.

But in remarks first reported by Reuters, Blanco added that “when the core comes from a single vendor, the probability is high that a failure in one part stops the whole network”.

Earlier this year, it emerged that the UK was planning to allow Huawei to operate in the non-core parts of 5G networks on the condition that telcos used a range of suppliers.

The government had been expected to formally announce its position over summer, but the decision was postponed after the US took steps to restrict Huawei’s access to American suppliers.

Speaking in parliament in July, the then culture secretary Jeremy Wright said that a US trade ban imposed on the firm’s suppliers “could have a potential impact on the future availability and reliability of Hauwei’s products”.

Wright revealed that the UK had “sought clarity on its extent and implications but the position is not yet entirely clear”. “Until it is we have concluded it would be wrong to make specific decisions in relation to Huawei but we will do so as soon as possible,” he said.

Reuters reported that the entirety of the core of Telefonica’s 4G networks in Spain and Germany are managed by Huawei equipment, but that it will be phased out by 2024. Blanco said the decision was motivated by technicalities rather than political pressure.

Huawei has been contacted for comment and we will update this piece if it responds.

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