Britain’s BT Group said on Wednesday it was removing Huawei Technologies’ equipment from the core of its existing 3G and 4G mobile operations and would not use the Chinese company in central parts of the next-generation 5G network.
That followed recent moves made by New Zealand and Australia to stop telecommunications operators from using Huawei’s equipment in new 5G networks because of concerns about possible Chinese government involvement in their communications infrastructure.
Huawei, the world’s biggest telecoms network equipment supplier ahead of Ericsson and Nokia, has said Beijing has no influence over its operations.
BT said Huawei’s equipment had not been used in the core of its fixed-line network, and it was removing it from the core of the mobile networks it acquired when it bought EE, the largest mobile network operator in the UK.
It said the process was to bring the EE networks in line with the rest of its business rather than a change of policy.
“In 2016, following the acquisition of EE, we began a process to remove Huawei equipment from the core of our 3G and 4G networks, as part of network architecture principles in place since 2006,” a BT spokesman said.
He said the company would apply the same principles to its next-generation mobile networks.
“As a result, Huawei have not been included in vendor selection for our 5G core,” he said. “[But] Huawei remains an important equipment provider outside the core network, and a valued innovation partner.”
The statement from BT has come amid comments made by the chief of Britain’s foreign intelligence services this week that 5G reliance on Chinese technology was something the UK government needed to discuss.
Huawei has been in Britain for more than 17 years, with its equipment checked and monitored by a special company laboratory overseen by government and intelligence operators.
The Shenzhen-based company said it had been working with BT for almost 15 years, and since the beginning of its partnership, BT had been operating on a principle of different vendors for different layers of its network.
“This is a normal and expected activity, which we understand and fully support,” Huawei said in a statement.
The privately held Chinese company said it began working with mobile network operator EE in 2012, and had supplied the carrier with 3G and 4G network solutions, including core network equipment.
“We have never had a cybersecurity-related incident,” it said. “Huawei has a robust cybersecurity assurance system and a proven track record.”