Thursday, 06 December 2018 08:41

BT removing Huawei gear from core networks as planned

BT removing Huawei gear from core networks as planned Pixabay

British telco BT and Chinese telecommunications equipment maker Huawei say the UK firm is removing equipment made by the Chinese company from the core of its 3G and 4G networks as it planned to do after it acquired the company EE in 2016.

The statements from the two companies came after Britain's Financial Times ran a story saying that BT would "strip Huawei equipment from its core 4G network", and tied this to the problems faced by the Chinese firm over the last several years in a number of countries.

But the removal of gear appears to have been planned well ahead, with a decision taken by BT when it bought EE — earlier known as Everything Everywhere — to remove Huawei gear from the core of its networks in keeping with its existing policy.

Huawei and the British National Cyber Security Centre operate a centre financed by the former, where equipment is checked before being used, given the scaremongering over Huawei by the US since a 2012 Congress report made unspecified claims about the firm being a front for spying by China.

Huawei equipment will also not be used in the core of the British 5G networks, but the company will be in the running to supply other equipment for the build.

EE has used Huawei equipment in its networks since 2012.

In a statement, BT said: "In 2016, following the acquisition of EE, we began a process to remove Huawei equipment from the core of our 3G and 4G networks, as part of network architecture principles in place since 2006.

"We're applying these same principles to our current RFP for 5G core infrastructure. As a result, Huawei have not been included in vendor selection for our 5G core."

The BT statement added: "Huawei remains an important equipment provider outside the core network and a valued innovation partner.”

The British telco's statement underlines the fact that the core and the radio access network continue to be separate in 5G, contradicting claims made by the head of the Australian Signals Directorate, Mike Burgess, in October.

Burgess was quoted by The Australian as saying in what many dubbed a major speech: “The distinction between core and edge collapses in 5G networks. That means that a potential threat anywhere in the network will be a threat to the whole network." In August, Huawei was banned from playing a role in Australia's 5G rollout.

But the spy chief's claims were shown to be incorrect when Huawei's New Zealand division, along with the NZ telco Spark, demonstrated the technical implementation of access and core separation.

The trial, in Auckland, used a Huawei 5G NR (New Radio on both the C-band and mmWave) and a 4G Radio Access Network, both of which were deployed by using dedicated hardware connected to the Cisco Evolved Packet Core, with each component isolated.

Asked for its take on the FT story, a Huawei spokesperson said the company had 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.

"Huawei began working with EE in 2012. As part of this collaboration, we provided EE with a series of innovative and competitive 3G and 4G network solutions, including core network equipment. We have never had a cyber security-related incident. Huawei has a robust cyber security assurance system and a proven track record. Our products and solutions serve customers in more than 170 countries and regions, including major carriers, Fortune 500 companies, and hundreds of millions of individual consumers. We have earned the trust of our partners across the global value chain.

The spokesperson said, along with BT, Huawei had completed a number of successful 5G trials across different sites in London, and would continue to work with BT in the 5G era.

"Huawei has been operating in the UK for 17 years. Thanks to the open and equitable investment environment in the UK, we work with all major carriers in the country and continue to make significant contributions to the UK's economic and digital development," the spokesperson said.

"We have created 7500 new job opportunities in the UK, and in 2017 we purchased goods and services worth US$828 million from UK companies. Moving forward, we hope the UK will continue to provide Huawei with an equitable business environment so that we can continue to provide quality digital services for UK businesses and consumers.

"Cyber security should not be politicised, and equipment vendors should not be treated differently based on country of origin. Today, the ICT supply chain is highly globalised. Limiting one vendor does nothing to help the industry more effectively identify and address cyber security threats."


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.



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