Wednesday 10 June 2020 10:28 am

O2 amps up pressure for UK networks to snub Huawei

O2 today announced a partnership with Ericsson to upgrade its 5G technology, adding pressure for other telecoms firms to seek alternatives to Huawei as force grows for the UK to cut ties with the Chinese vendor.

The UK telecoms firm last October confirmed plans for Ericsson to develop part of its 5G infrastructure. O2 today extended its partnership with the Swedish-based firm to include a modernisation program of its 5G network across the UK and to launch the technology in new locations.

Brendan O’Reilly, chief technology officer at O2, said: “We are pleased to be moving forward with Ericsson as one of our primary vendors for our 5G rollout.”

Read more: Vodafone lashes out over UK’s Huawei doubts

“Telecommunications has never been more important in keeping the country connected, and we look forward to bringing the enhanced capabilities of 5G to our customers.”

The announcement follows increasing pressure for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to scrap plans for Huawei to produce 35 per cent of the UK’s 5G network amid fears technology made by the Chinese firm could be used for state spying by Beijing. Huawei has repeatedly denied the claims.

A group of around 60 rebel Conservative MPs have urged the PM that national security concerns should be prioritized over the potential cost fallout for UK telecoms firms that have already developed technology with Huawei as part of their core networks. 

All four of the country’s mobile network operators — O2, Vodafone, Three and EE — rolled out 5G services last year using Huawei technology.  

O2 is owned by Spanish group Telefonica, which has used Huawei’s infrastructure in some of its other networks. While O2 does not widely deploy Huawei technology within the UK, it is engaged in a network-sharing agreement with Vodafone. Its decision today to go ahead with Ericsson will put the pressure on the UK’s other networks to follow suit.

BT, which owns mobile network EE, is heavily reliant on Huawei in its UK mobile and full-fibre networks, and has warned that it will cost £500m to remove equipment made by the Chinese vendor from its network.

Read more: Tory MPs blast Huawei over British media blitz

It comes on the same day Vodafone doubled down on its partnership with Huawei, claiming that the UK would lose its footing as the global leader in 5G if it had to rip out technology made by the Chinese firm.

“We are not tied to one supplier, but it is important to understand the extent of what is at stake here,” said Vodafone chief technology officer Scott Perry.

“The UK’s leadership in 5G will be lost if mobile operators are forced to spend time and money replacing existing equipment.”