Huawei: BT says ‘impossible’ to remove all firm’s kit in under 10 years
The BT chief said it would be “impossible” to remove Huawei from the entire UK telecommunications infrastructure before 2030.
The government is expected to state that no new Chinese 5G equipment can be installed after 2021 and that all of its existing 5G kit should be removed later, possibly by 2025.
But it’s unclear if similar deadlines will be given for Huawei’s other mobile and broadband devices as well.
A statement will be released on Tuesday.
“If I had to try and not have Huawei at all [in 5G] ideally we would like seven years and we could probably do it in five, “said Philip Jansen, CEO of BT, at BBC Radio 4’s Today program.
“If you didn’t want to have Huawei in the entire telecommunications infrastructure across the UK, I think it’s impossible to do it in less than 10 years.”
BT’s EE network uses Huawei equipment to provide its 2G, 4G and 5G networks.
In addition, its Openreach division uses Huawei to provide “access technology” in its exchanges to provide broadband from optical fiber to premises (FTTP), effectively converting electrical signals into light-based ones.
Huawei also supplies approximately 70,000 Openreach on-road cabinets, used to provide fiber-to-cabinet (FTTC) broadband connections. However, BT does not expect it to be ordered to replace them, as they will be replaced in time by FTTP technology.
Jansen also repeated a warning issued by his company last week, stating that “interruptions would be possible” if BT were forced to pull out Huawei’s 5G kit too quickly.
He added that it would still be necessary to install the software provided by Huawei for some time.
“Over the next five years, we would expect 15 to 20 major software updates,” he explained.
“If you don’t have these software updates, there are gaps in critical software that could have security implications.”
Martis Johnson will chair a National Security Council (NSC) meeting on Tuesday, where a final decision will be made about Huawei.
Digital Minister Oliver Dowden is expected to announce the details to Parliament shortly thereafter.
The review was prompted by new U.S. sanctions that disrupt Huawei’s ability to manufacture its own chips and will likely force it to rely on those made by others.
UK security officials fear that this will test their ability to properly check Huawei products before use.
“We want to run ahead and have the best form of Internet connectivity,” Secretary of Justice Robert Buckland told the BBC.
“But at the same time, national security comes first and I know that the NSC and the whole government will place a huge priority on our national security.”
The threat of a backward rebellion and other considerations – including China’s introduction of a new security law in Hong Kong and its role in the coronavirus pandemic – will also encourage the prime minister to take a hard line.
Huawei continues to present its case to the government. He denies the claim to pose a national security risk and has suggested that he could guarantee his customers in the UK the supply of equipment made with their own chips for years to come.
It also emerged that President Trump’s national security adviser Robert O’Brien is flying to Paris to attend Bastille Day events in France. He will have to meet with the UK’s oldest national security adviser, Sir Mark Sedwill, while he is in town.
Washington hopes that if the UK takes a tougher line against Huawei, other countries will follow – including France, Germany and Canada.