Three Warns Huawei Ban Would Delay 5G Deployment

The boss of mobile operator Three has said he is confident that equipment from Chinese networking giant Huawei does not pose a security threat.

David Dyson, chief executive at Three UK, also said that banning the use of Huawei equipment would delay the rollout of 5G networks in the UK.

Dyson’s comment echo that of its rival Vodafone. Earlier this month Vodafone warned that banning Huawei would cost the UK its 5G lead, and would mean ripping out existing 4G gear at a cost of ‘hundreds of millions’ of pounds.

Huawei ban

That stark warning came after Vodafone chief executive Nick Read, speaking in February at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, also predicted that banning Huawei in Europe would be “hugely disruptive” to national infrastructure and would delay 5G in Europe for “likely two years”.

But now Three gone public with its thoughts on the matter when David Dyson spoke to the BBC, and he confirmed that the use of Huawei equipment was part of Three’s plan for 5G.

“We’ve already started to deploy equipment for when we launch 5G in the second half of the year,” Dyson reportedly said. “So if we had to change vendor now, we would take a big step backwards and probably cause a delay of 12 to 18 months.”

Dyson said that Huawei was just one of its suppliers, but pointed out that Three had already consulted the government about security issues and was confident that the Chinese firm did not pose a threat to its customers.

“Huawei met all of the standards that the other operators met, and we felt at the end of that process that Huawei was the right choice for our customers and for our business,” he reportedly said.

And Dyson warned that a ban on Huawei kit would damage the UK’s 5G ambitions.

“It is seen as an important element in terms of how the UK economy does develop over the next five to 10 years,” Dyson was quoted as saying. “So I think any sense that there is a delay to the start of rolling out 5G will have implications for the broader economic environment in the UK.”

Huawei concerns

The UK government is currently preparing a Supply Chain Review and is examining whether Huawei should be allowed to participate in the UK’s 5G networks, amidst security concerns and US pressure for a complete ban.

Its review is expected to be completed in April.

There are conflicting reports about whether the UK will opt to ban Huawei kit, as the United States would prefer.

However the British government had already warned telcos against using equipment makers such as Huawei when rolling out 5G networks.

Huawei for its part has always maintained it poses no security threat, and in recent months has begun fighting back in public against US allegations, which it calls baseless.

It has sued the US government for a ban instituted last year that prevents US government agencies from using Huawei gear or working with contractors who do so.

Huawei has also called for a worldwide cybersecurity standards agreement after it opened a cyber security centre in Brussels to allow governments and companies to test and examine its products and source code.

The Brussels Cyber Security Transparency Centre mirrors similar facilities in the UK, Germany, Dubai, Canada and China.

The UK centre, located in Banbury, actually opened in way back 2010, but it was only given official clearance by the British government in late 2013.

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Tom Jowitt @TJowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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