BT expects new network safeguard rules to cost it GBP500m over next five years

31 Jan 2020

Following on from the British government’s announcement earlier this week that it will limit the use of equipment from ‘high risk’ vendors in operator’s networks, BT has suggested that the development will cost it around GBP500 million (USD653 million) to comply with the ruling. According to The Guardian, BT currently uses more Huawei equipment in the masts and towers of its mobile network than is allowed under new government rules, and as such it will be required to take this out and replace it with kit from other vendors. Speaking on the matter, BT’s chief executive Philip Jansen was cited as saying: ‘The way it works at the moment is when you put a 5G box on a mast it has to be on top of a 4G box from the same supplier … More than 35% of [our] 4G boxes are Huawei. We are going to have to take out some Huawei 4G boxes and not use them again. That is probably the single biggest cost. In order to make 5G work we are going to have to use other manufacturers’ equipment.’

Meanwhile, the executive was said to have suggested that the total cost to the company could rise beyond GBP500 million. With the new rules meaning that high risk vendors are limited to a minority presence of no more than 35% in the periphery of the access network, this 35% cap is also reportedly to be applied to how much 5G data traffic can flow through Huawei equipment, not just the proportion of equipment. As such, this may mean BT needing to replace additional Huawei-supplied equipment where it is being used in highly populated, high-traffic areas such as London and Manchester. ‘[The cap] is not just number of masts, it is traffic as well. The mechanism for defining traffic has not [yet] been agreed,’ Jansen pointed out.

United Kingdom, BT Group (incl. Openreach), EE, Huawei Technologies