BT Risks Fine As Huawei Removal Deadline Nears – Report

BT Group is at risk of financial penalties from the UK government, as it looks set to miss the 31 December to replace equipment from Huawei Technologies in its core network.

This is according to Bloomberg, which reported that the UK carrier has said it hasn’t completed work to replace Huawei Technologies equipment in its core network ahead of the UK government’s December deadline.

That deadline had already been moved backwards, after the British government last year had sent legal notices to 35 UK telecoms network operators to officially enforce this deadline.

Core network

In October 2022 the UK government extended the deadline for UK operators to remove Huawei equipment from its core networks.

The UK government gave operators until 31 December 2023 to remove Huawei 5G kit from network cores, compared to an original target deadline of 28 January 2023.

It reportedly did so, after operators blamed delays caused by the Covid-19 lockdowns.

And now Bloomberg has reported that the extended December 2023 deadline also looks set to be missed.

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.

However the end of 2027 deadline to completely eliminate all Huawei equipment from UK 5G networks remains unchanged.

The resulting financial repercussions could be severe, as Bloomberg reported that penalties may add up to £100,000 per day after 31 December.

According to Bloomberg, BT is still at work to transition millions of its customers over to another supplier ahead of the government deadline, a spokesman for the London-based phone carrier reportedly said, declining to comment on whether the business would meet the timetable.

5G ban

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.

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

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UPDATE: BT has responded to Silicon UK, and said its focus is now on the core network.

“We’ve met our initial targets – both our radio access network (RAN) traffic levels and sites were below the levels required by the Government for its July 2023 deadline,” a BT spokesman said. “Our focus is now on work in the core for the Government’s deadline.”

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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