BT Targets Hull To Begin Removal Of Huawei Kit – Report

BT has begun its program to remove Huawei 4G and 5G equipment from its mobile network in the East Yorkshire town of Hull.

Hull of course is the only part of the UK where BT was historically not the fixed-line incumbent (KCOM is the former telecoms incumbent there).

But it does have mobile networks in the area, and BT hopes to remove all of Huawei’s equipment by July, according to a report by Bloomberg.

It comes after the UK government, after many delays, had in July 2020 ordered all UK operators to remove equipment from ‘high risk vendors’ such as Huawei from Britain’s 5G network by 2027, over national security concerns. In order to satisfy this order, 4G equipment from Huawei will also have to be removed.

Operator opposition

That ‘national security’ ban came into force from 31st December 2020, after which UK operators had to stop procuring new kit from high risk vendors.

Huawei has always denied it presents a security risk.

EE’s owner (BT) had said in April 2020 (just as the Coronavirus pandemic began to hit hard), that the removal of Huawei equipment from EE’s ‘core mobile network’ would be delayed by two years and that it would cost £500m.

And it is fair to say that the BT was not the only UK entity unhappy at the government’s order.

Other UK mobile operators such as Vodafone, EE and Three, had all previously warned they would need at least five years, and ideally seven, in order to remove Huawei equipment from their networks.

The operators also said removing Huawei kit could delay completion of the 5G rollout by 2-3 years and add costs of up to £2bn across all operators.

The only exception to this was O2, which instead opted to use 5G equipment from Ericsson and Nokia right from the start.

Nokia, Ericsson

In September and October of last year, BT had announced it would to use equipment from Nokia and Ericsson to replace Huawei kit.

According to the Bloomberg report, BT is now on track to cut out all of Huawei’s equipment in Hull by July, substituting in components from Nokia.

“We were quite keen to pick one city area and do the whole of that, and make sure that we can really check that we’re not having an adverse impact on customer service,” BT Chief Technology Officer Howard Watson was quoted as saying. “The signs are really good for that so far.”

And it seems that approximately 12,000 of BT’s 18,000 mobile masts, rooftops, and other sites will need replacing nationally, with Watson reportedly saying around 130 have been completed so far.

He reportedly added that seeking landlord permissions, closing roads, and mobilising staff was a time-consuming process.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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