BT avoids Huawei for 5G after stripping tech from EE mobile network

BT is removing Huawei equipment from its mobile carrier EE's existing 3G and 4G LTE networks, saying it will also not use the Chinese tech giant for its upcoming 5G network deployment.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

BT Group in the United Kingdom will be stripping Huawei equipment from its mobile carrier EE's 3G and 4G core networks, and will not be using the Chinese technology giant for its 5G networks, it has said.

The telco is claiming that it made the decision to remove Huawei in order to bring EE in line with its legacy fixed network, which does not use Huawei technology.

"In 2016, following the acquisition of EE, we began a process to remove Huawei equipment from the core of our 3G and 4G networks, as part of network architecture principles in place since 2006," a BT spokesperson said.

"As a result, Huawei have not been included in vendor selection for our 5G core."

Huawei agreed that the decision is "a normal and expected activity, which we understand and fully support", despite EE extending its 5G partnership with Huawei to cover live trials of 5G New Radio (NR) and customer premises equipment (CPE) back in February.

"Our 5G research has been hugely promising, and this partnership with Huawei will turn that research into reality," BT CTIO Howard Watson said at the time.

"The EE network is already the UK leader for speed and coverage, and with the weight of BT's R&D and partnerships we can ensure that leadership continues with the introduction a world-class 5G experience."

Read also: Huawei warns bans will increase prices and put US behind in 5G race

Huawei and EE had also been upgrading the latter's LTE network, with a test at the beginning of the year attaining speeds of 970Mbps across 4G in Wembley Stadium using a Huawei Mate 10 Pro device.

Huawei and EE had in November 2017 also demonstrated separate uplink-downlink (UL/DL) decoupling technology across a 5G-LTE network deployment in London.

EE last month said it will switch on 5G services in 16 cities across the UK in 2019, starting with London, Edinburgh, Belfast, Manchester, Birmingham, and Cardiff.

This week, the BT spokesperson said Huawei "remains an important equipment provider outside the core network, and a valued innovation partner".

Fellow UK mobile carrier Three last month also announced that it is working with Huawei on a 5G home broadband demo in London.

Three and Huawei have been working on pre-commercial tests this year, and said they will continue testing the service ahead of the public launch in dense urban areas and train stations in 2019.

"Huawei will continue to work with Three UK to bring customers more market-leading commercial applications of 5G," Huawei 5G Product Line president Yang Chaobin said.

BT's announcement follows UK foreign intelligence services chief saying earlier this week that using Chinese technology for 5G was something the nation needed to discuss.

Back in July, the UK government's National Cyber Security Centre had made two low-priority national security findings and two advisory issues during its annual evaluation of the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (HCSEC) in the UK.

The HCSEC was launched in November 2010 to help mitigate any potential risks in using Huawei technology in the UK's critical national infrastructure.

In the July report, the HCSEC oversight board identified "technical issues" in Huawei's engineering processes, which it said could cause "new risks in the UK telecommunications networks".

Following a meeting with Theresa May back in February, however, Huawei had also committed to £3 billion in procurement over the next five years in the UK.

"Huawei's £3 billion announcement is yet another significant vote of confidence in our world-leading tech industry, and I'm delighted to welcome their increased commitment to the UK," International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said at the time.

Huawei and ZTE were banned by the Australian government from playing a role in any 5G rollouts in August due to supposed national security issues stemming from concerns of foreign government interference in critical communications infrastructure.

This followed a 5G ban in the US, and the US has reportedly told Canada to ban Huawei, with New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) last week telling Spark that it cannot use Huawei's technology to deploy its 5G network across the nation under its current proposal.

Huawei in September denied similar reports that the Indian government had excluded it from taking part in joint 5G trials, saying it is currently proposing a set of solutions to support the government's requirements for a nationwide 5G rollout.

South Korea's largest carrier left Huawei off its list of 5G vendors, with SK Telecom announcing in September that it would be going with Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung.

With AAP

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