Vodafone to Remove Huawei From Core of European Network

By Reuters

LONDON—Vodafone will remove Huawei technology from the core of its European networks following Britain’s decision to restrict the Chinese company’s role in 5G and new EU guidelines on the firm’s equipment, Chief Executive Nick Read said.

“We have now decided, as a result of the EU toolbox and the UK government’s decision, to take out Huawei from the core,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

“This will take around five years to implement at a cost of approximately 200 million euros.”

Britain last month allowed Huawei a limited role in new mobile networks—defying U.S. pressure for an outright ban on security grounds—but excluded it from the core and imposed a 35 percent cap in the less-sensitive radio network.

Huawei has repeatedly denied U.S. allegations that its equipment could potentially be used by Beijing for spying.

Read said Vodafone would only have to make minor adjustments to comply with the rules in Britain, where it has not deployed Huawei equipment in its core network.

He broadly welcomed the British approach, which he said was evidence-based and differentiated between the core and non-core, but opposed caps on the use of particular vendors by operators.

Vodafone chief executive officer Nick Read
Vodafone chief executive officer Nick Read speaks at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Feb. 25, 2019. (Lluis Gene/AFP via Getty Images)

“It hugely impacts customers and the quality of networks if we are forced to do an accelerated swap,” he said. “Although this isn’t an issue in the UK I wouldn’t want this for Europe.”

He said it could lead to delays of anything between two and five years depending on which countries decided to impose a cap.

“The U.S. is racing ahead, China is racing ahead,” he said. “We can’t hold back our 5G deployment and therefore I think caps would be restrictive on that basis.”

In Germany, Vodafone’s largest European market, lawmakers have been arguing over Huawei for weeks.

By Paul Sandle