All Four UK Telecoms Operators ‘Working With Huawei’ On 5G

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The collaboration could prove risky if government decides to ban Huawei on national security grounds, as requested by the US

All four of the UK’s major telecoms networks are working with China’s Huawei on next-generation 5G networks, in spite of a lack of clarity over whether the government intends to impose a ban on the equipment maker, a report has said.

Huawei is involved in building 5G networks in six of the seven cities in which Vodafone has activated its network, the Observer reported over the weekend.

It is helping build “hundreds” of 5G sites for EE and has also won contracts to build 5G networks for Three and O2, the paper said, without disclosing its sources.

The operators are using Huawei for non-core parts of their networks, such as base stations, but the move may prove risky if the government decides to impose a complete ban on Huawei’s participation in the UK’s 5G rollout.

Image credit: BT

Security ban

Australia and New Zealand have already done so, citing national security concerns, and Huawei is also largely excluded from the US market.

Huawei has denied it poses a security threat.

A government review into the UK telecoms infrastructure supply chain was expected this spring, but has yet to appear.

Earlier this year leaks suggested the National Security Council was prepared to allow Huawei to contribute non-core 5G components to the UK network.

Former defence secretary Gavin Williamson was sacked from the position after being accused of leaking the discussions.

UK operators including Vodafone have said a ban on Huawei would set back the UK’s 5G rollout by years and cost the economy billions.

Technical risk

Matthew Howett, principal analyst at Assembly, said such a move could also create technical dangers as it would reduce the range of providers upon which UK networks could rely.

Howett cited a December incident in which O2’s 4G network went down for 24 hours due to problems with Ericsson gear, telling the Observer that in that case a variety of providers meant other operators were able to continue providing services.

Huawei said that as of Monday it has won contracts to work on 50 5G networks around the world and has shipped around next-generation 150,000 base stations.

On Monday Cambodia’s Smart Axiata said it had begun 5G trials with Huawei and is looking to begin a network rollout later this year.

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