BT re­mov­ing Huawei equip­ment from parts of 4G net­work

The Guardian Australia - - Technology -

BT has con­firmed it is re­mov­ing Huawei equip­ment from key ar­eas of its 4G net­work as con­cerns are raised about the Chi­nese firm’s pres­ence in crit­i­cal tele­coms in­fra­struc­ture.

Gov­ern­ments in the US, New Zealand and Aus­tralia have al­ready moved to block the use of Huawei’s equip­ment as part of the fu­ture roll­out of 5G net­works. Ear­lier this week the head of MI6 also sug­gested the UK needed to de­cide if it was “com­fort­able” with Chi­nese own­er­ship of the tech­nol­ogy be­ing used.

On Wed­nes­day it emerged that Canada has ar­rested Huawei’s global chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer in Van­cou­ver, where she is fac­ing ex­tra­di­tion to the US in a move likely to ex­ac­er­bate ten­sions be­tween the US and China.

Meng Wanzhou, one of the vicechairs on the Chi­nese tech­nol­ogy com­pany’s board and the daugh­ter of the com­pany founder Ren Zhengfei, was ar­rested on 1 De­cem­ber. A court hear­ing has been set for Fri­day, ac­cord­ing to Canada’s de­part­ment of jus­tice.

In a state­ment, the UK tele­coms group has con­firmed it is in the process of re­mov­ing Huawei equip­ment from the key parts of its 3G and 4G net­works to meet an ex­ist­ing in­ter­nal pol­icy not to have the Chi­nese firm at the cen­tre of its in­fra­struc­ture.

“In 2016, fol­low­ing the ac­qui­si­tion of EE, we be­gan a process to re­move Huawei equip­ment from the core of our 3G and 4G mo­bile net­works, as part of net­work ar­chi­tec­ture prin­ci­ples in place since 2006,” BT said. “We’re ap­ply­ing these same prin­ci­ples to our cur­rent RFP (re­quest for pro­posal) for 5G core in­fra­struc­ture. As a re­sult, Huawei have not been in­cluded in ven­dor se­lec­tion for our 5G core. Huawei re­mains an im­por­tant equip­ment provider out­side the core net­work and a val­ued in­no­va­tion part­ner.”

The news comes in the wake of the head of MI6, Alex Younger, ques­tion­ing whether Chi­nese firms such as Huawei should be in­volved in UK com­mu­ni­ca­tions in­fra­struc­ture.

He said that the UK would have to make “some de­ci­sions” about such firms af­ter other gov­ern­ments had taken steps to block the firm. “We need to de­cide the ex­tent to which we are go­ing to be com­fort­able with Chi­nese own­er­ship of these tech­nolo­gies and these plat­forms in an en­vi­ron­ment where some of our al­lies have taken a very def­i­nite po­si­tion,” he said.

Huawei was founded by a for­mer of­fi­cer in the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army and ques­tions have been raised about the firm’s links to the Chi­nese state.

A re­cent re­port to the US congress by the US-China Eco­nomic and Se­cu­rity Re­view Com­mis­sion sug­gested the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment “ex­erts strong in­flu­ence over its firms” and could “force Chi­nese sup­pli­ers or man­u­fac­tur­ers to mod­ify prod­ucts to per­form be­low ex­pec­ta­tions or fail, fa­cil­i­tate state or cor­po­rate es­pi­onage, or oth­er­wise com­pro­mise the con­fi­den­tial­ity, in­tegrity, or avail­abil­ity” of de­vices and net­works that use them.

Huawei has al­ways de­nied any im­proper links to the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment. In their own state­ment, the com­pany said: “Huawei has been work­ing with BT for al­most 15 years. Since the be­gin­ning of this part­ner­ship, BT has op­er­ated on a prin­ci­ple of dif­fer­ent ven­dors for dif­fer­ent net­work lay­ers.

“This agree­ment re­mains in place to­day. Since it ac­quired EE in 2016, the BT Group has been ac­tively bring­ing EE’s legacy net­work ar­chi­tec­ture in line with this long­stand­ing agree­ment. This is a nor­mal and ex­pected ac­tiv­ity, which we un­der­stand and fully sup­port. Work­ing to­gether, we have al­ready com­pleted a num­ber of suc­cess­ful 5G tri­als across dif­fer­ent sites in Lon­don and we will con­tinue to work with BT in the 5G era.”

Pho­to­graph: Fred Du­four/Getty

Gov­ern­ments in the US, New Zealand and Aus­tralia have al­ready moved to block the use of Huawei’s equip­ment as part of the fu­ture roll­out of5G net­works.

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