Vodafone warns ditching Huawei will cost the UK its 5G leadership

Operator says the government should instead focus on improving 5G coverage

Vodafone UK’s CTO Scott Petty has issued a warning to the UK government, claiming that stripping Huawei from the country's 5G infrastructure could have grave consequences.

In an email to Reuters, Petty warned that “the UK’s leadership in 5G will be lost if mobile operators are forced to spend time and money replacing existing equipment”.

He added that the government should instead focus on expanding 5G coverage and investing in the next stages of the technology.

The statement from Petty comes as NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said that the Western world could not disregard China’s advancements, asking the UK to review Huawei’s role in its 5G network to ensure its security.

“China is coming closer to us, we see that in the Arctic, we see they are heavily investing in critical infrastructure in Europe, and we see of course China also operating in cyberspace,” he said.

Speaking to BBC Radio, Stoltenberg added: “I trust that the UK government will design their networks in ways that protect the networks and make sure that the UK has secure 5G networks.”

Earlier this year, the UK government classified Huawei as a “high-risk vendor”, capping its 5G involvement at 35% as well as barring it from the data-heavy core of the network.

Petty also said that Vodafone is “not tied to one supplier, but it is important to understand the extent of what is at stake here”.

The British telecoms company is currently testing out new potential suppliers as well as collaborating with Ericsson, which has also been chosen by O2 UK to expand its 5G radio access network (RAN).

Ericsson’s president of Europe and Latin America, Arun Bansal, described 5G as “crucial for the UK’s economic recovery”. 

“We are committed to ensuring that the UK achieves its gigabit connectivity targets so that enterprises and society at large benefit from high quality connectivity. We are delighted to be continuing our long-term partnership with O2 with this 5G network evolution,” he said.

O2’s extended partnership Ericsson includes hardware, software and service upgrades in the West of the UK, which aims to provide the region with greater coverage, voice and data capacity.

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