Vodafone To Remove Huawei From Core European Networks

Vodafone has reportedly said it will remove Huawei equipment from the sensitive, core parts of its mobile networks across Europe.

Doing so will cost the British operator 200m euros (£169m) over the next five years, the Guardian newspaper reported.

It comes after the British government decided last week to officially approve Huawei’s involvement in 5G networks in the United Kingdom. However, it designated Huawei as a “high risk vendor” and as such the Chinese firm will be excluded from core parts of the network including all safety critical networks.

British decision

The British government decision also meant that Huawei will be excluded from sensitive geographic locations such as nuclear sites and military bases; and have a 35 percent cap in periphery (non-sensitive parts) of the 5G network.

Following the British decision on Huawei, it is expected that other European countries will follow the UK’s example.

So now Vodafone, which has 111 million customers across Europe, has taken the decision to remove Huawei kit from core areas of European networks, the Guardian reported.

Nick Read, Vodafone’s chief executive, was quoted by the Guardian as telling reporters during its third-quarter conference call, that the Huawei equipment replacement programme would have “very limited financial impact” on its UK operations as they were already mostly compliant with the new government measures.

However, Read warned that if European nations were to follow the UK’s 35 percent cap on Huawei equipment in non-core parts of mobile networks – the masts and towers – it could delay 5G rollout in those countries by two to five years.

It should be noted that Vodafone had already ‘paused’ the use of Huawei equipment in its core network across Europe in January 2019 because of the debate about security concerns involving the Chinese telecoms giant.

Restriction cost

Read reportedly said that if caps (similar to the British rules) were introduced by other countries Vodafone would look to divert money intended for rolling out 5G to the wider replacement of Huawei equipment.

“We would reprioritise money we would have spent on rollout [of 5G] to replace equipment and that delays 5G rollout,” he reportedly said. “It isn’t an issue in the UK but I wouldn’t want [caps] in Europe. It would be hugely disruptive,” he said.

Read did indicate that no European countries had announced at this stage that they intended to introduce caps but because the UK had done so, Vodafone wanted to make its position clear on the potential impact.

“We need to be rolling out 5G to underpin a competitive landscape in a digital society,” Read said. “The US is racing ahead, China is racing ahead. We can’t hold back 5G deployment and caps would be restrictive on that basis.”

Last week, BT (the owner of EE) had reportedly said limiting the use of Huawei equipment in EE’s 5G mobile and full-fibre broadband networks would cost it £500m over the next five years.

At the moment, three of the UK’s largest wireless providers (EE, Vodafone, and Three) have all used Huawei equipment to build their 5G networks.

The only exception to this is O2, which instead opted to use 5G equipment from Ericsson and Nokia.

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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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