Vodafone ‘pauses’ use of Huawei equipment over security concerns | Business

Vodafone has decided to “pause” the use of Huawei equipment in its core networks across Europe because of the debate about security concerns involving the Chinese telecoms giant.

Nick Read, chief executive of Vodafone, said the company would continue to buy equipment from Huawei to build its 4G and 5G networks but would halt using the Chinese supplier in its core network, where data is concentrated and security concerns are highest. Huawei has denied allegations its kit could be used by the Chinese government to spy on users.

“I feel there is a lot of commentary in the media, by politicians and various other bodies and I don’t think everyone is being clear enough and fact based,” said Read. “We are taking this moment to pause Huawei further building the core, only in Europe, while we engage with security agencies, government and Huawei.”

Read said that if it were the case that Huawei equipment needed to be replaced in its core network it would not be particularly expensive or disruptive. However, if it came to pass that Huawei equipment could not be used in its radio access networks – the towers and equipment for 4G and 5G networks – the impact would be huge.

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Countries including New Zealand, Australia and the US have blocked Huawei equipment from being used in the radio access market, citing national security concerns over the rollout of 5G.

“A ban on the radio side for the whole industry would have a significant financial cost and customer disruption, and ultimately delay the launch of 5G in a number of countries, depending on who is deploying Huawei in what market,” Read said. “This would affect all players across Europe. It would have significant implications for the industry across Europe.”

Vodafone is planning to launch 5G services in a number of markets, including the UK, later this year.

Read said Vodafone’s move was not borne out of government or political pressure but an overall “unhealthy level of noise” about the Huawei issue.

“It needs to move into a structured conversation, with facts, otherwise this can tailspin into more emotion than facts,” he said. “It is not about pressure from governments; it is the noise level throughout Europe.”

A spokesman for Huawei said: “Vodafone and Huawei are long-term strategic partners that have worked together since 2007. Huawei is focused on supporting Vodafone’s 5G network rollouts, of which the core is a small proportion. We are grateful to Vodafone for its support of Huawei and we will endeavour to live up to the trust placed in us.”

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