Banning Huawei from the UK would entirely jeopardise the launch of non-stand-alone 5G in the country, according to Vodafone

Any decision to ban Huawei from the UK’s 5G mobile network deployment would cost hundreds of millions of pounds and significantly delay the rollout of 5G in the country, according to UK based operator, Vodafone

Speaking at a media briefing session in London on Thursday morning, Vodafone’s chief technology officer, Scott Petty, said that banning the Chinese tech giant would cost the UK its position as a European leader on 5G rollout. 

"The impact [of a total UK ban] would be really significant. The first iterations of 5G will be non-stand-alone, meaning that they rely on elements of existing 4G networks. If Huawei was to be banned and we were forced to remove them from our network, we would need to go to 32 per cent of our 18,000 base stations [6,000] that are currently using Huawei for Radio Access and replace all of those with somebody else’s technology, and then deploy 5G on top of that, he explained.  

"The cost of doing that runs into the hundreds of millions of pounds, and it would dramatically affect our 5G business case. We would have to slow down the deployment of 5G very significantly, in order to go back and reset our 4G network first before we were able to overlay our 5G technology on top of that. 

"We think that would be the wrong thing to do. We are talking about an area of the network (RAN) that is very low risk and low impact. We should be able to continue to work with Huawei in the Radio Access Network," he said. 

Vodafone UK’s general counsel and external affairs director, Helen Lamprell, urged the UK government to provide proof of the allegations facing Huawei, or else allow network operators to make their own minds up about who they wish to deploy their 5G networks.  

"A ban would have a huge impact for governments and operators on 5G. It would create huge cost for the industry – for what? If there is any evidence, then we’d love to see it, but so far we haven’t seen any evidence at all," she said.  

Vodafone today announced that it will deploy mobile 5G services in 19 towns and cities across the UK before the end of 2019, making it one of Europe’s most proactive telcos on 5G. In the UK especially, Vodafone is keen to remain on the front foot for 5G. It’s continued partnership with Huawei will be integral to ensuring that the UK remains one of the first-for-5G destinations in Europe, and petty warned that even the proposed 50 per cent cap on Huawei’s UK operations would still have a negative effect on the industry. 

"It’s never a good idea for an operator to rely on just one vendor [for its network infrastructure equipment] – you lose commercial leverage, so we would always have at least two vendors in any one area of our network. That’s just good supply chain management," Petty said.  

"The problem comes if you create a situation where we can only use two vendors, then that takes off the incentive for either of those two vendors to innovate," Lamprell added. 

Vodafone was unequivocal in its support of Huawei. Perhaps the most telling comment came at the end of the session, when Petty was asked whether any CTO in the industry had ever said to him that they had seen any evidence that Huawei left backdoors in its networks for the Chinese government to access: 

"No," he said. There is no evidence of that whatsoever." 


Scott Petty will be delivering a key note address on 5G in the UK at the Connected Britain event later this year. Held on the 18th-19th June 2019, Connected Britain will bring together the key stakeholders from the UK’s fixed line and mobile connectivity sectors. Click here to find out how you can be involved in the show. 


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