The United Kingdom has extended the deadline for UK operators to remove Huawei equipment from their 5G networks.

The government announced the decision on Thursday after it issued legal notices to 35 UK operations, in response to a consultation about Huawei.

Operators will now have until 31 December 2023 to remove Huawei 5G kit from network cores, compared to an original target deadline of 28 January 2023.

Deadline shifted

The December 2023 deadline is for operators to remove Huawei equipment, such as that used at phone mast sites and telephone exchanges, from their network “cores” – where some of the most sensitive data is processed, CNBC reported.

A requirement for firms to reduce the level of Huawei equipment in their non-core networks to 35 percent has been delayed to 31 October 2023 – later than compared to an initial July ultimatum.

The government however said the end of 2027 deadline to completely eliminate all Huawei equipment from UK 5G networks remains unchanged.

The government has sent legal notices to 35 UK telecoms network operators to officially enforce this move.

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 also has to be removed.

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

Huawei has always denied it poses a national security risk.

Operator objections

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.

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.

In September and October of 2020, BT had announced it would to use equipment from Nokia and Ericsson to replace Huawei kit.

The government’s decision to slightly delay the 2023 deadline came after BT had reportedly requested an extension beyond the January 2023 for removal of Huawei from core 5G infrastructure, saying it might not meet the deadline due to delays caused by Covid-19 lockdowns.

Vodafone has already removed Huawei from its core.

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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