Telcos warn that losing Huawei could damage the network

Executives from two of the UK’s largest telecoms providers told the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee last week that removing Huawei from the country’s infrastructure will be hugely expensive, and if done too quickly could lead to customers experiencing lengthy disruptions in service.

Having initially ruled that Huawei equipment could be present in up to 35 percent part of the country’s 5G network, the government has been backtracking after US pressure and a backbench rebellion and is expected to begin phasing out Chinese tech giant from the UK’s infrastructure as early as this year.

The Times reported today that the government is likely to do a u-turn this week.

Vodafone said it would need at least five years to completely remove the Chinese firm’s equipment without causing disruption.

Vodafone UK’s head of networks Andrea Dona said: “Should the guidance become stricter it will have an effect, it will delay the rollout of our 5G, it will have cost implications and focus our investment in the removal of the existing equipment. ‘If the current guidance were to be tightened and further restrictions were to be imposed, we would need to spend in the order of billions to change our current infrastructure,’ Dona said, as reported by Yahoo News, adding that if Vodafone was asked to remove Huawei within two years customers could lose their signal for up to “a couple of days”.

BT’s chief technology and information officer, Howard Watson said it would be: “logically impossible to get to zero [Huawei presence] in a three-year period… it would literally mean blackouts for customers on 4G and 2G, as well as 5G, throughout the country as we were to build that in. So we would definitely not recommend that we go down that route.”

Huawei has consistently denied that it is a security risk or that it is beholden to the Chinese government. However, when asked by Committee chair Greg Clark MP about his personal views on events in Hong Kong, UK vice president Jeremy Thompson declined to offer them.