BT, Vodafone UK complain about ripping out Huawei

BT’s CTO said it would cost “tens to a hundred million” in addition to the $658 million the company earlier said it would cost. (Getty Images)

Executives from BT and Vodafone told the U.K. Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee today that it would take from five to seven years to rip and replace all of their Huawei equipment, according to a report from Bloomberg.

The U.K. government under Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tried to find a compromise, mandating that Huawei’s equipment not be used in mobile operators’ core networks, but allowing it in less-sensitive non-core parts of the networks. Rules imposed in January limit Huawei’s presence to 35% of 5G RAN and fiber networks.

RELATED: U.K. allows limited Huawei role in 5G networks

However, Johnson has been backtracking of late, according to numerous U.K. media outlets, reporting that the government was considering a complete ban on equipment from Huawei and ZTE in the country’s wireless networks.

Today Andrea Dona, Vodafone U.K.’s head of networks, said if the government decides to strictly ban Huawei it would cost Vodafone “low-single-figure billions” to swap out its thousands of Huawei stations and antennas across the country, according to Bloomberg.

And Howard Watson, BT’s chief technology and information officer, said it would cost BT “tens to a hundred million” beyond the $658 million the company said it would cost to comply with the earlier rules.

BT is currently in the process of switching to an Ericsson core before 2023.

RELATED: BT picks Ericsson for 4G, 5G core, replacing Huawei

In addition, Watson said that if the government pushed forward with a proposal to replace all Huawei equipment within three years, it would result in blackouts for consumers.

Analyst says BT, Vodafone are exaggerating

Analyst John Strand said in a research note today that he disagrees with BT’s and Vodafone’s assessment of the costs to replace Huawei equipment. 

Strand argues that operators must upgrade their networks for 5G anyway. “In practical terms, hardware and software within the network are constantly being upgraded and improved as the standards evolve from 2G to 3G to 4G to 5G,” writes Strand. “In general, European operators are facing an upgrade of 4G networks built between 2012 to 2016. This goes for Vodafone and BT.”

He said there are other operators such as Denmark’s TDC, Norway’s Telenor and Telia, and Bell Canada that are replacing Huawei equipment and are not complaining about the same exorbitant costs or time delays.