Service outages, compromised security possible unless government takes common-sense approach to Huawei – BT CEO
Rushing to exclude Chinese telecom giant Huawei from the UK market may have serious consequences, including a failure to keep British networks safe, the head of telecommunications company BT has warned.
Downing Street is to announce on Tuesday whether it would reverse January’s decision to allow Huawei to provide equipment for developing 5G in Britain. London is under serious pressure from Washington to push the Chinese giant out of Britain over security concerns.
A rushed decision regarding Huawei may be disruptive for Britain, BT CEO Philip Jansen warned on Monday. Rather than keep the networks safe, it could compromise their security.
“We need to make sure that any change of direction does not lead to more risk in the short term,” he told BBC Radio 4.
For example, if all transactions with the Chinese company are forbidden, British operators currently using its equipment will not be able to keep the firmware up to date. In a best-case scenario, it would take five years to replace Huawei components in British networks, and, in that time, some 15 to 20 big software upgrades are likely to be released by the company, Jansen said.
“If we get to a situation where things need to go very, very fast, then, … potentially, service for 24 million BT Group mobile customers is put into question, [resulting in] outages,” he added.
Washington accuses Huawei of serving as an agent of the Chinese government and collecting intelligence through the equipment it sells. The company says it has been smeared, because the US has failed to catch up with Chinese vendors in developing 5G solutions and is brandishing the national security cudgel to undermine competition.
Jansen said BT was in talks with the British government to explain the potential ramifications of the decisions it may soon take, and hoped “common sense would prevail” in the end “and we will head the right direction here”.
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