Huawei is back in the headlines after the US put pressure on UK ministers to ban the company from 5G provision. But some companies already use Huawei components in their 5G masts – and at present, it’s not clear what will happen to that existing infrastructure, or Huawei phones, if the government issues a ban.
To try and clear up the confusion, we contacted Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three to see how a ban will impact the roll out of 5G. Unfortunately, the service providers’ answers didn’t exactly fill us with confidence.
Three didn’t clarify how a ban could immediately affect 5G customers, indicating that a drop in the service shouldn’t be ruled out.
A spokesperson said: “We continue to keep in close contact with Government and the NCSC on the issue and will abide by any directions given by them.” Nice and vague, thanks guys.
Similarly, a Vodafone spokesperson confirmed that it would “work closely with government and industry partners to assess telecoms sector security and performance, and always comply with the latest regulations.”
But Vodafone did also say that it “uses a mix of Ericsson and Huawei in the supply of passive antennas on our masts. By using the full range of suppliers for this equipment, we can safeguard the delivery of services to all mobile customers.”
Given the above, Vodafone’s 5G provision should remain nice and steady, regardless of the government’s decision.
O2 was the only network to confirm that it will replace current 5G parts that have been provided by Huawei, although it sounds like this was something already underway.
A spokesperson said “We’ve spoken before about trials we held with vendors last year, including Huawei, that saw us sign a deal with Nokia and Ericsson as our primary RAN partners for our 5G rollout to deliver the cellular equipment, software and services. There are a very small number of Huawei sites from that trial, which will be replaced with Nokia kit.
So far, Three hasn’t responded to multiple requests for comment.
Related: What is 5G, anyway?
The UK government is expected to decide shortly on the future of Huawei as a 5G provider, although so far there’s no firm date on when this will be.
In a recent statement, the NCSC said: “The Government continues to consider its position on high risk vendors and a decision will be made in due course.”