The UK government’s decision to cap Huawei will be a headache for Three, but is this the cause of the senior technical staff exodus?

Last year, Three announced that Huawei would be its only 5G RAN vendor and it has since been swapping its Samsung 4G sites over to Huawei technology. Some of these approximately 1,800 sites have also received an upgrade to 5G. 
But, with the UK government’s decision to cap Huawei’s market share at 35% of 5G base stations and volume traffic, Three’s decision to rely solely on the Chinese manufacturer for its RAN infrastructure could be a costly blunder.
Three remains the only UK MNO not to have launched its 5G network, which was originally scheduled for activation at the end of 2019. This estimated launch date was later revised to Q1 2020 as a result of numerous factors, including “5G equipment on masts, the right backhaul transmission, as well as the need to acquire the right planning permissions from landlords,” the company said in a November statement.
With pressure rising to get 5G up and running, and now facing this additional set back through the UK’s Huawei decision, perhaps it comes as no surprise then that we are seeing a departure of a number of senior Three executives.
Phil Sheppard, Three’s technology strategy and architecture director, had been with the company for 19 years and confirmed his departure yesterday. This news arrives just days after the company’s director of core technology, Graham Marsh, announced that he was leaving the company last Friday.
Together, these two men have almost 30 years’ experience with Three, leaving a significant gap in Three’s 5G roster.  
In a statement, Three confirmed the departure of Sheppard and Marsh, wished them well, and announced that replacements for both roles would be announced “in due course”. 
“We are in the process of a wholesale transformation of Three’s network and IT systems in order to create a truly digital telco of the future. Our employee structure continues to change and evolve to support this ambition,” said a company statement. 
Operational service transition manager, Kevin Howley, also left the company on the same day as Marsh.
To link these departures directly to the government’s Huawei decision could, in fact, be a bit of a stretch. Marsh is moving on to found his own company, Infinite Potential, and we understand that Sheppard in fact left the business back in December, prior to the UK’s official policy announcement. 
The perceived exodus may actually have started prior to the UK’s decision altogether, with 14-year veteran Andy Steele, director of IT architecture and solutions, also leaving the business in December. 
So, is this coincidence or cause and effect? Regardless, Three will be on the hunt for new talent to help guide their 5G ship back to calmer waters as soon as possible.
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