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BT delays plans to purge Huawei from EE network

Huawei equipment will still be used to power EE’s core network for at least the next two years, owner British Telecom has confirmed.

British Telecom had originally claimed, in December 2018, that the controversial infrastructure manufacturer would be shut out of the most sensitive parts of the EE mobile network within two years.

Now the provider has shifted its stance, revealing it will complete the task of shifting “100% of core mobile traffic” to Ericsson-built equipment by 2023. That’s still in line with a government deadline announced earlier this year, but still a significant delay on what the company had initially indicated.

BT says 5G customers will be moved first, while the 4G customers will be switched to the 4G network soon thereafter. The firm blamed the government’s ‘ambitious targets’ for the delay.

Related: 5G in the UK

“In order to hit these ambitious targets within the timescales laid down by government and to align with their focus on 5G networks, it is now our intention to prioritise migrating our 5G customers to the new Ericsson core, followed by our 4G customers,” a spokesman said.

The measures imposed by the government are part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plans to keep Huawei out of the most sensitive parts of the UK’s mobile infrastructure, while not shutting out the Chinese firm completely.

It comes amid international concerns over the proliferation of Huawei mobile infrastructure, with the company regularly accused of using its reach to conduct espionage on behalf of the Chinese government.

Those accusations have not been proven, but the United States is a cheerleader for the theories and has encouraged European nations to follow its lead and marginalise the firm. Huawei itself has said shutting it out of the UK 5G network “would do Britain “a disservice”.

“There are those who choose to continue to attack us without presenting any evidence,” said Huawei’s UK boss Victor Zhang.

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