BT reportedly misses deadline to ditch Huawei kit

Mobile network mast
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The deadline for UK telecommunications companies to remove Huawei equipment from their core networks has now passed, and reports are already claiming that BT has missed its goal.

The UK Huawei ban was revealed in 2020, when Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden drew reference to US sanctions against the Shenzhen company, with companies were instructed to take action later in 2022.

The December 31, 2023 deadline had already been extended by nearly one year, from January 28, 2023, in response to complaints from the likes of BT, which had expressed concerns about feasibility and timescales.

BT still uses some Huawei equipment

A BT spokesperson told TechRadar Pro in an email: "All 4G and 5G data sessions and voice calls are now delivered by non-Huawei core equipment – meaning that over 99% of all core traffic is now being served by non-Huawei kit."

They added that the process, which affects its live mobile network, involves migrating 30 million active customers across multiple platforms, indicative of the sheer amount of work involved.

BT also confirmed that the only voice and data services that are yet to be migrated are using the 2G and 3G networks, representing less than 1% of the total traffic. Ofcom has revealed that the UK’s major mobile network providers plan to shut down their 3G networks between 2024 and 2025.

Missing the deadline raises questions as to whether BT may face fines, but the deprecation of the older networks could suggest that some slack could be cut for BT given that its 4G and 5G networks are now free from Huawei kit.

BT added that it would continue to share information with Ofcom as part of the watchdog's statutory obligation to report to the Government in March, and that it remains on target to fully remove Huawei from the access parts of its mobile network by 2027.

Ofcom shared a statement with TechRadar Pro: "Government is responsible for setting and enforcing the rules requiring certain telecoms companies to remove Huawei equipment from their networks. Ofcom’s role is to gather information on companies’ progress and report this to Government."

Ofcom's next report to the Secretary of State will be on January 31, 2024, and March 31, 2024. Two further reports will be submitted in 2026 and 2028.

Four years ago, The Register added that BT was preparing to spend £500 million to remove Huawei equipment. At the time, O2 was rolling out Huawei-free 5G across many of the UK’s major cities.

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Craig Hale

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