BT has requested an extension to the UK government’s deadline for removing Huawei equipment from its network, following a ban on using the Chinese company’s equipment because of data security concerns.
BT, which has said the removal of Huawei equipment from its core network where personal data is processed would cost it £500m, has lodged a request with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
Boris Johnson banned the use of Huawei components in 2020, calling the Chinese firm a “high-risk vendor”, while Huawei continues strenuously to deny that the Chinese government could have any access to data processed by its equipment.
Telecoms operators in the UK were given until 28 January 2023 to remove all Huawei equipment from the most sensitive core networks and reduce use in non-core parts of the network to 35%.
“We are continuing to work towards the January 2023 deadline for that work to happen in our core, but have requested a necessary, short extension, to reflect significant Covid-driven impacts to the programme over the past two years,” BT said.
Earlier this year, the government granted a six-month extension to July next year for operators to comply with the cap on non-core component usage, such as in telecoms masts. BT says the rationale for that extension should also be applied to the core parts removal deadline.
A further ban, on the use of Huawei equipment in the introduction of the UK’s 5G network, must be complied with by 2027.
“We continue to liaise with DCMS and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) to ensure our programme can be completed as quickly and safely as possible, and remain confident that the final 2027 deadline for delivering new equipment throughout the 5G network is achievable,” said BT.
Telecoms companies can be fined 10% of turnover or £100,000 a day for failing to comply with the government’s new security protocols for the UK’s telecoms network.
“At the end of the day, not interrupting service for customers is the critical requirement here,” said Howard Watson, BT’s chief technology officer, speaking to Bloomberg.
The DCMS said it would publish its decision on BT’s request in due course.