Vodafone warns Huawei ban will cripple UK’s 5G roll-out

7 Mar 2019

Vodafone building. Image: radub85/Depositphotos

Vodafone responds to call for evidence that Huawei actually poses a security threat.

Vodafone has spoken out about a potential Huawei ban in the UK, warning that any stoppage on the Chinese company’s kit will come at a huge cost.

The UK government is currently applying a supply chain review, examining whether Huawei should play a part in the roll-out of 5G infrastructure. The investigation comes amid US pressure to completely ban the Chinese company over unproven spying fears from China.

The reality is, though, that Huawei and other Chinese telecoms equipment manufacturers are leading the race in the development of 5G infrastructure, and are head and shoulders above Silicon Valley stalwarts.

In Ireland, Eir said that it is sticking with deploying Huawei radio access network (RAN) equipment in its €150m network upgrade while using Ericsson technology at the core. Meanwhile, Germany’s Deutsche Telekom has said that it cannot simply stop using Huawei’s equipment, and instead called for a more calm route of certified testing of the Chinese manufacturer’s equipment.

Slow down on high speed?

Today (7 March), Vodafone warned that stopping use of Huawei equipment would come at a huge cost to the UK.

“The cost of doing that runs into the hundreds of millions and will dramatically affect our 5G business case,” Vodafone chief technology officer Scott Petty was quoted as saying by the BBC. “We would have to slow down the deployment of 5G very significantly.”

Petty said that Huawei equipment is not being used in sensitive parts of the 5G network and that the company’s policy has been framed by advice from the National Cyber Security Centre. Vodafone is using Cisco technology in its core 5G network while it uses equipment from Sweden’s Ericsson in other parts of the network.

“Huge impact to the government’s ambition to be a leader in 5G, huge cost to the industry … for what?” asked Vodafone’s general counsel, Helen Lamprell.

Lamprell also urged the US-led campaign for the ban on the Chinese equipment maker’s technology to finally prove that Huawei represents a spying risk. “No one has put any evidence on the table,” she said.

Vodafone estimates that 32pc of current 4G base stations are made by Huawei.

In related news, Huawei has revealed that it is suing the US government to fight back against accusations that its technology poses a security threat. A lawsuit filed in Texas challenges a recent US law that bans federal agencies from buying its products.

“This ban not only is unlawful, but also restricts Huawei from engaging in fair competition, ultimately harming US consumers,” Huawei deputy chair Guo Ping was quoted as saying by CNN.

“The US Congress has repeatedly failed to produce any evidence to support its restrictions on Huawei products,” he said. “We are compelled to take this legal action as a proper and last resort.”

Vodafone building. Image: radub85/Depositphotos

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years