The UK’s largest operator has officially started the process of removing Huawei mobile equipment from its network, beginning with Hull

Back in July 2020, the UK government announced plans to increase its 5G sanctions on Huawei, mandating that all of the country’s mobile operators remove all Huawei equipment from their networks by 2027.

The ban came into force at the end of 2020 and now, five months later, BT is reporting that it has begun the lengthy process of removing Huawei equipment from roughly 12,000 sites around the country. 

According to BT’s CTIO Howard Watson, the replacement process has already begun in Hull, in the north of England, with the work in the city expected to be completed by July this year. In this case, the equipment being removed will be replaced with Nokia kit, though BT also added Ericsson as a 5G supplier in October last year.

“We were quite keen to pick one city area and do the whole of that, and make sure that we can really check that we’re not having an adverse impact on customer service. The signs are really good for that so far,” said Watson, speaking to Bloomberg.

In the past, BT has lamented that the removal of Huawei equipment would cost them around £500 million to implement, but were thankful of the long deadline to do so, without which costs could have been much higher.

"We believe the timescales outlined will allow us to make these changes without impacting on the coverage or resilience of our existing networks," said BT CEO Philip Jansen in July last year.

Nonetheless, the laborious process is sure to have a wider impact on the UK’s 5G development, with Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, suggesting last year that the removal could delay the nation’s rollout by two-to-three years and cost the industry up to £2 billion.


Will the removal of Huawei equipment pose a serious set back for UK operators? Find out from the experts at this year’s Connected Britain

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