SYDNEY/LONDON – Huawei Technologies Co. gear will be ripped out of the core part of a U.K. communications network for police and other emergency responders by the company delivering the £2.3 billion ($3 billion) project, BT Group PLC.
BT has been pulling equipment from the Chinese tech giant out of its own core structure since the 2016 acquisition of mobile carrier EE, which used Huawei gear throughout its systems. That work extends to the Emergency Services Network EE has been building for Britain, though some Huawei parts will remain in the broader access network.
While BT says it’s been an ongoing process to remove some Huawei gear and the ESN decision aligns with a long-standing corporate policy to keep the Chinese company out of the core, critics of Huawei will be emboldened by the step to limit its involvement. Huawei has come under fire from governments globally over fears its equipment could enable Chinese spying.
The firm, which has always denied connections with the state and any espionage risks, has been dragged into a trade war between the U.S. and China, with American officials trying to persuade allies to block the tech company from rollouts of next-generation mobile networks. Australia, New Zealand and Japan have all followed the U.S. in imposing bans against Huawei in recent months, and concerns have been raised by authorities in European countries including the U.K., Germany and France.
Fully replacing Huawei parts in the core part of the network will take up to four years, with BT footing the bill. A government spokesman told the Sunday Telegraph — which first reported the ESN action — that while Huawei parts would be removed, it was content the emergency systems infrastructure does not pose a security concern.
“We have ongoing plans to swap to a new core network vendor for Emergency Services Network, in line with BT’s network architecture principles established in 2006,” an EE spokesperson said in emailed comments. “This will be managed with no disruption to the ESN service.”
A Huawei spokesman told the Telegraph the company had worked with BT for 15 years and that the British carrier had a longstanding policy to use different vendors for different network layers. BT said Huawei remained an important equipment provider, according to the report.