BT To Remove Huawei Gear From Next-Gen Emergency Network

BT is to remove Huawei equipment from the next-generation emergency services communication network it is developing for the government over security concerns, the company has confirmed.

The move, reported earlier by The Sunday Telegraph, follows BT’s disclosure earlier in December that it was removing Huawei gear from core parts of its network, in line with an existing policy.

The policy is aimed at reducing its dependence on the Chinese telecoms equipment giant, BT has said.

EE won the contract to develop the government’s Emergency Services Network (ESN) in 2015, and was acquired by BT the following year.

Network swap

The ESN is intended to run on EE’s existing data network, while providing priority access to emergency services such as police, fire and rescue and ambulances.

The service is aimed at replacing an existing dedicated Motorola network called Airwave.

But its approach is untried elsewhere in the world, requiring custom-developed handsets and other customised gear, and the project has faced repeated delays.

BT has said its policy is to use Huawei equipment in perimeter parts of its network, such as phone masts, but not core switching gear.

It said it would remove the Huawei gear at its own expense and that the procedure wouldn’t delay the ESN from coming online by 2020 as planned.

The gear is to be removed retrospectively following a tender process, BT told The Sunday Telegraph, and it is understood that Nokia and Ericsson are front-runners to replace EE’s Huawei equipment.

Pressure

“We have ongoing plans to swap to a new core network vendor for ESN, in line with BT’s network architecture principles established in 2006,” BT said in a statement.

“This will be managed with no disruption to the ESN service.”

The US has placed increased pressure on its allies in recent months to place additional restrictions on Huawei, which it sees as a key competitor in next-generation 5G mobile technology.

Huawei has repeatedly denied it poses any security threat to countries where its equipment is used.

5G is set to ramp up in 2019 beginning with critical spectrum auctions early in the year.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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