BT misses key Huawei kit removal deadline, but the telco is “almost over the line”

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BT has missed a deadline to remove Huawei equipment from core networks following a government ruling over national security concerns. 

The telecoms giant was required to remove Huawei kit from core network infrastructure by 31 December, along with a long-term goal of cutting equipment from 5G networks by 2027.

The order to remove the Chinese firm’s equipment from core networks was originally given a deadline of January 2023, however, this was extended following industry concerns that the timeframe was not realistic.

BT said it has made significant progress in its work to remove non-compliant equipment, with all 4G and 5G services now delivered by hardware sourced from alternative providers.

“Over 99% of all core traffic is now being served by non-Huawei kit,” the firm said in a statement.

Despite this, the telecoms provider revealed that some services are still reliant on Huawei equipment - specifically 2G and 3G. However, the firm said this accounts for only a small portion of its total traffic.

“Our primary concern throughout these activities has been to ensure the resilience and operational capability of our networks for our customers,” BT told ITPro.

“The only voice and data services yet to be migrated are 2G and 3G, which accounts for less than 1% of the total traffic. We’re working hard to complete this work.”

Kester Mann, director of consumer and connectivity at CCS Insight, told ITPro the time BT has taken to implement changes highlights the difficulty of the task it has faced in recent months.

BT said the project has been “unprecedented in terms of scale, cost, and complexity”, and previously warned that it could cost more than £500 million in total.

“The time it has taken BT to remove Huawei gear demonstrates how technically challenging it is for an operator to switch from one core provider to another,” he said.

“It also hints that BT has sought to move carefully, wary of the potential impact on customers were anything to go wrong during the migration.”

Could BT face a fine?

Questions remain over whether BT could face penalties for its failure to fully meet the end-of-year deadline. 

Companies were warned that they could be fined up to 10% of their annual revenue, or £100,000 ($126,560) each day for failing to comply with the order.

A report from telecoms regulator Ofcom is expected to be published in early 2024 detailing progress on the removal scheme.


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BT said it will provide Ofcom with details on progress next year as part of its obligations. The firm added it is still on-track to achieve the broader 2027 deadline.

Mann said that any potential penalties for BT would be harsh given that the deadline was only missed by a small margin. Similarly, figures released by the telecoms provider show it is more or less “over the line” at this stage.

“With almost all core traffic now served by non-Huawei kit, and with its 3G network set to shut down in just a few months, the company is almost over the line.

“Considering the rip-and-replace costs incurred BT would have incurred – estimated at around £500 million – it would feel harsh for the company to be penalized for only missing the deadline by a very small amount of time.”

Ross Kelly
News and Analysis Editor

Ross Kelly is ITPro's News & Analysis Editor, responsible for leading the brand's news output and in-depth reporting on the latest stories from across the business technology landscape. Ross was previously a Staff Writer, during which time he developed a keen interest in cyber security, business leadership, and emerging technologies.

He graduated from Edinburgh Napier University in 2016 with a BA (Hons) in Journalism, and joined ITPro in 2022 after four years working in technology conference research.

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