Vodafone’s chief technology officer, Scott Petty, has warned the UK government that forcing operators to strip out Huawei equipment from their networks will inevitably cost the UK its early leader position on 5G.
In an emailed statement to The Financial Times, Petty warned that operators would struggle to keep pace with their respective network expansion builds, if they were forced to remove Huawei kit from their existing networks.
“The UK’s leadership in 5G will be lost if mobile operators are forced to spend time and money replacing existing equipment,” he said.
All four of the UK’s mobile network operators launched their non-stand-alone 5G networks last year, with all of them utilising Huawei equipment in their Radio Access Network. As non-stand-alone 4G utilises 4G network infrastructure, a full ban on Huawei would force operators to spend billions of pounds stripping out and replacing Huawei products from their 4G, LTE and 5G networks.
Huawei remains the world’s biggest supplier of 5G equipment, and was planning to ship an estimated 2 million 5G base stations to the market in 2020.
The company has come under sustained pressure from the US government, who allege that Huawei’s networks are less secure than those of their competitors. Despite offering no proof whatsoever to back up these allegations, the US government has placed Huawei on its banned entity list, banning US companies from doing business with Huawei. US President, Donald Trump, has previously Tweeted that he would be prepared to remove Huawei from the list if doing so would help the US secure a better trade deal with China.
The US has repeatedly tried to influence its European allies into banning Huawei from their 5G ecosystems, in a series of pleas that have been largely ignored. However, the UK government is now facing increasing pressure from a group of backbench MPs to reverse its initial decision to allow the Chinese tech giant to participate in the country’s 5G rollout.