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BT’s Challenge: Phasing out Huawei Equipment Deadline

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Navigating through the mandates of an ever-evolving telecommunications landscape, UK’s largest telecom operator that goes by the name BT has hit a hurdle. Failing to meet the deadline for the full-scale removal of Huawei equipment from its core network, BT has run afoul of the 31 December 2023 deadline as reported by Telegraph. This particular deadline had already been pushed back twice, leaving many to question whether the telecom giant will be able to successfully transition away from Huawei’s infrastructure within the set timeframe.

A law in the UK compels all network operators to purge their systems of all Huawei equipment, extending to the radio access network (RAN), by the culmination of 2027. Having attempted to swap Huawei kit with Ericsson technology, BT is striving to comply with these regulations. However, the sheer quantity of Huawei equipment that is still serving within BT’s network remains uncertain. Despite these ambiguities, BT confidently claims, “99% of all core traffic is now being served by non-Huawei kit.” Only 1% remains, which is predominantly housed within older 2G and 3G networks.

Tracing back to 2020, security concerns within the country forced the UK government to outlaw Huawei products in critical sections of telecommunication infrastructure. Network operators have been warned of stringent penalties for non-compliance, with hefty fines amounting to 10% of their revenue, or an enormous £100,000 daily fine. At this stage, whether the government is going ahead with drastic measures is yet to be established.

While all national operations face the daunting task of removing Huawei technology from their systems, BT differes due to the magnitude of its obligations. Its counterpart, Three UK, who relies on Nokia for supplying their core network, faced a significantly smaller challenge, with only a minimal volume of Huawei equipment in play. Thankfully, they managed to meet the deadline effortlessly. In a similar vein, Virgin Media has confirmed their deadline adherence. 

As far as BT’s official response goes, a company spokesperson addressed the issue prior to the deadline by confirming “We’ve met our initial targets – both RAN traffic levels and sites were below the levels required by the Government for its July 2023 deadline. Our focus is now on work in the core for the Government’s deadline.”

Government Communication remained low-key on this contentious issue, recently suggesting they are continuing to “work with operators to remove Huawei technology as quickly as possible while minimizing disruption for consumers, and operators remain on track to remove it from 5G public networks by the end of 2027.”

BT’s CEO Phillip Jansen, back in 2020, drew attention to the enormity of Huawei’s removal process and stated, “If you wanted to have no Huawei in the whole telecoms infrastructure across the UK, I think that’s impossible to do in under 10 years.”

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