BT chief executive Philip Jansen today warned it would take up to seven years to completely strip China’s Huawei technology from the UK telecoms network.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to make a decision this week on whether to ban Huawei due to security and privacy concerns. He is also under pressure from the US to ban the firm’s equipment from being used in the new 5G networks.
Jansen, who has previously backed Johnson’s plans to rollout ultra-fast wi-fi across Britain, said removing Huawei too quickly would lead to service failures.
“If you are to try not to have Huawei at all, ideally we would want seven years and we could probably do it in five,” Jansen told the BBC.
He added: “We need to make sure that any change of direction does not lead to more risk in the short term.”
“If we get to a situation where things need to go very, very fast, then you are into a situation where potentially service for 24 million BT Group mobile customers is put into question - outages,” he added.
Vodafone has already warned that removing Huawei would cost billions.
Vodafone UK’s head of networks, Andrea Dona, said last week that the operator needed to have a “sensible time scale” of at least five years to transition its network away from dependence on Huawei.
Johnson in January defied President Donald Trump and granted Huawei a limited role in the 5G network, but the perception that China did not tell the whole truth over the coronavirus crisis and a row over Hong Kong has changed the mood in London.