Vodafone to chop Huawei equipment from core of its European wireless network

The United Kingdom’s decision last week to limit carriers from putting equipment from Huwaei and other high-risk providers into the core of its new 5G networks is having a knock-on effect at one of Europe’s biggest carriers.

Vodaphone Group chief executive officer Nick Read said Wednesday the company will phase Huawei gear out of its existing core network across Europe over the next five years at a cost of about US$220 million.

However, he urged country regulators not to follow the U.K. decision to limit risk equipment providers to a certain percentage (35 per cent in the U.K.) of the radio access part of cellular networks. If they did that, Read was quoted as saying, it would delay Vodafone 5G rollouts by at least two years.

The decision also took into account the European Union’s decision last week that countries in the EU could if they wish to apply “relevant restrictions for suppliers considered to be high risk – including necessary exclusions to effectively mitigate risks – for key assets defined as critical and sensitive” as part of a risk assessment, he said.

Read made the statements during the presentation of the carrier’s quarterly financial results, according to a news report.

He was quoted as saying Vodafone began stopping using Huawei equipment in the more security-sensitive core of its network last year, while awaiting clarity on security measures.

Meanwhile, carriers here are waiting for the Trudeau government to make a decision on whether or how much carriers here can buy from Chinese-based network equipment makers for their 5G networks.

The timing of that decision could be complicated by the fact that China has detained two Canadians in custody after Canada arrested Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou pending an extradition hearing in Vancouver to the U.S. The executive is out on bail while the Canadians are in jail.

Moves by the U.K. and Vodafone come despite the United States pushing its allies to refuse to allow carriers to install any 5G equipment from Chinese-based manufacturers.

The U.S. argues these manufacturers are a security risk because of a Chinese law that obliges companies based there to help its intelligence agencies. It also sees no distinction between the core and the access parts of a cellular network, but experts say in 5G networks there is no easily identifiable split.

When the U.K. made its announcement limiting high-risk network manufacturers Huawei had no objection.

Based in the U.K., Vodafone owns and operated networks in 25 countries. In Europe it operates in the U.K., Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Ireland, Portugal, Hungary, Romania, the Czech Republic and Ireland

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including ITBusiness.ca and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@] soloreporter.com

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