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BT boss warns of service outages and security risks from Huawei 5G removal

Image credit: reuters

The boss of BT has said it will take at least a decade to strip Huawei-built technology from the UK’s telecommunications infrastructure as faster action would increase the risk of service outages and could cause security issues.

It follows a parliamentary session last week where senior telco executives estimated a five-year timeline for removal – still longer than the government’s anticipated request to remove Huawei equipment by 2023.

Philip Jansen, chief executive of BT, told BBC Radio 4’s 'Today' programme: “Huawei has been in the telecoms infrastructure for about 20 years and a big supplier to BT and many others in the UK telecoms industry.

“It is all about timing and balance. So if you want to have no Huawei in the whole of the telecoms infrastructure across the whole of the UK, I think that’s impossible to do in under 10 years.

“We need to make sure that any change of direction does not lead to more risk in the short term.”

He added that there was a danger that “accelerating the rip-out” of Huawei from 5G networks meant that effort was not being put into extending the service provision across the country.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson previously promised in the Conservative Party manifesto to extend full-fibre broadband to every home and business in the UK as well as expand mobile coverage.

After months of deliberation, he defied the wishes of US President Donald Trump in January and granted Huawei a limited role in building “non-core” 5G infrastructure.

But the perception that China did not tell the whole truth over the coronavirus crisis and a row over Hong Kong has changed the mood in Westminster.

Last week the head of Vodafone said that much of its 5G investment would need to be redirected towards stripping Huawei out of its systems if the government went ahead with a full ban, and that replacing old Huawei would cost in the “low single-figure billions”.

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