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Vodafone believes UK’s 5G leadership will be ‘lost’ with Huawei ban

Image credit: Dreamstime

Vodafone has warned that the UK’s burgeoning 5G networks would be dealt a massive blow if the Government outlaws all technology made by Chinese firm Huawei.

With concerns over possible cyber intrusion by a foreign power, Huawei’s involvement in UK 5G was initially scaled back before the Government relented in January this year, allowing the Chinese firm to supply up to 35 per cent of “non-core” network equipment.

As the US broadens its ban on the Chinese tech giant, Huawei has undertaken a media blitz this week asserting its “ongoing commitment” to the UK and the key roles it has played in propagating earlier network technologies such as 3G and 4G.

“The UK’s leadership in 5G will be lost if mobile operators are forced to spend time and money replacing existing equipment,” said Scott Petty, Vodafone UK’s chief technology officer, speaking to Reuters.

Petty believes the Government should be focused on expanding the already existing infrastructure, rather than stripping out elements made by Huawei.

“We are not tied to one supplier, but it is important to understand the extent of what is at stake here,” he said, adding Vodafone is also working with Ericsson and testing equipment from new suppliers.

Pressure is already mounting on Prime Minister Boris Johnson from the US and rebel Tory MPs to reverse his January decision to allow some Huawei involvement.

Networks, however, are currently tied into binding contracts with the Chinese firm that could only be cancelled with a top-down change in national policy.

BT has already said it will have to spend around £500m to comply with the current 35 per cent cap on Huawei involvement.

London is looking at the possibility of phasing Huawei out of its 5G network completely by 2023, officials have said.

Ties between Britain and China have grown tense recently over Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak and the situation in Hong Kong, where China has imposed new security laws.

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