back to article BT: ruling on Huawei will cost us half a billion pounds over next 5 years

BT is factoring in a £500m financial cost over the next half decade in light of the UK government's decision to limit the amount of Huawei gear used in the building of the country's 5G and gigabit-capable networks. Just days ago, Huawei was singled out by politicians and the National Cyber Security Centre as a high-risk …

  1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    Perhaps what we need is an umbrella group that could assess the security of core infrastructure components before installation. We already have Huawei 'liasing' with GCHQ quite successfully and have apparently shown little to worry about (apart from the normal shoddy programming). However, the alternative core components should be equally assessed before installation for back doors, holes etc. Cisco, Samsung, Nokia ... After all, what's good for one should be good for all unless the UK Government wants to be accused of wilful and blatant bias against a company in the procurement process with no evidence of any security reasons for taking such actions.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Red Teams Lead with Invasive Missions with Virtual Assistance*

      That's classic SAS territory, Andy The Hat, and in Real Sp00Key Terrain, with Hellish/Heavenly Good Available for Exploitation. ... ACTive Use :-).

      Can you Imagine how Exciting and EMPowering that Be?

      The Question is .... Is IT Almightily Considered and Accepted Impregnable ‽ .

      * Heavenly Help?

      cc GCHQ Greater IntelAIgent Games Division, MuI7

  2. juice

    Poor BT

    I suspect they're now regretting not throwing at least some of their infrastructure contracts at Marconi...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Poor BT

      If you take those rose tinted glasses off, you will see Marconi failed as a company 5 years before BT awarded this tender.

      BT likely saved many billions (which would have been passed onto consumers via OpenReach almost irrespective of your choice of telecoms provider) by not having to prop them up for the last 15 years.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So BT, a company that made 2.7 billion pre tax profits last year, is whining about 100 million a year.

    Let me fetch the worlds smallest violin.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      But think about their bonuses!!! Executives could pay a great share of those 500M to themselves!

      China & Huawei know executives greed, and will use it.... after all, all this China affair started because greed...

      1. Tom 7

        Think how big their bonuses would have been if they hadn't shut down their research dept. They could have been making these things for themselves!

    2. macjules

      BT: ruling on Huawei will cost the UK taxpayer half a billion pounds over next 5 years


    3. Anonymous Coward

      Not whining, preempting

      This isn't whining on the part of BT, it's a preemptive strike against the next rate increase. "We are required to increase your phone bill in order to provide you with increased security under the mandatory government rules."

    4. Graham 25

      Indeed, they could save even more if they did away with all those pesky Health & Safety rules as well.

      1. Intractable Potsherd

        "... did away with all those pesky Health & Safety rules" - coming soon to a country "taking back control"!

  4. Mystereed

    No more than 35%?

    Is that by number of boxes, capacity or cost?

    Lots of wiggle/weasel room there - they could maybe get half the infrastructure from Huawei for 35% of the total cost?

    Or install small non-Huawei kit in lots of locations with small capacity needs and then get beefier Huawei kit where it will actually be more cost effective in busier locations?

    Bad targets drive bad behaviours?

    1. ibmalone

      Re: No more than 35%?

      I was wondering too.

      Clearly 35% by mass is the only objective measure.

      1. theblackhand

        Re: No more than 35%?

        "Clearly 35% by mass is the only objective measure."

        How about by the number of LED's?

        Blue ones are cooler than red ones so naturally are weighted accordingly with other colours somewhere inbetween.

        1. ibmalone

          Re: No more than 35%?

          I forgot about the LEDs!

          (Didn't there used to be a blinkenlights icon?)

  5. Amentheist

    What is this mythical kit anyway

    If wHoarethey are so good (cheap?) at it, is it radio ODUs or IDUs? Surely we're not arguing about mere switches and routers here right?

    1. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: What is this mythical kit anyway

      You mean is the largest telecoms manufacturer in the world any good at telecoms?

      Hmmm let me think about that for a minute.

      1. Amentheist

        Re: What is this mythical kit anyway

        What are you on about? I wasn't implying anything about quality I was asking what's the specific 5G equipment they're pitching.

  6. Slx

    Interesting in Ireland

    I note in Ireland the three infrastructural networks seem to have rather less spectacularly dropped Huawei.

    Vodafone Ireland - All Ericsson.

    3 Ireland (bought O2 and merged) - Was assumed to be going with Huawei, now going with Ericsson.

    Eir - Ericsson core (they keep stressing this) and Huawei RAN only.

    I'm a bit baffled as to why we're fussing over 5G when you consider that in Ireland and Britain Huawei gear is heavily installed, at the very least in access networks for VDSL / FTTC and FTTH. Their equipment was hugely popular with telcos, including the old incumbents, BT in the UK and Eir in Ireland for their FTTx rollouts.

    I'm not at all convinced by this hype about Huawei, but surely if there really were an issue the powers that be in the UK would be insisting on stripping out their gear from the fixed line broadband networks too?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Interesting in Ireland

      An d the USA may insist in stripping Huawei kit out of all there networks (such as LTE and 3G) but that would be too damaging for the economy and cause too much kick back from telcos.

      However that 'security risk' can be mitigated by ignoring it.

      Didn't the Orange One recently say that Huawei may be allowed back on the table if China gives them a better trade deal? Good trade deals obviously mitigate security risks aswell.

      I'm amazed Chine hasn't retaliated by blocking Foxconn China dealing with Apple and blocking iPhones and other Western tech from sale in China - the USA (like UK Gov) is always pushing for breaking of encryption and backdoor access. Although, it seems mainly about commercial interests rather than security anyway.

      1. Slx

        Re: Interesting in Ireland

        What I find odd though is that the policy in the US seems to be genuinely about security (or punishing China for trade reasons) as it is really not benefiting US companies. The dominant players in that sector, other than Huawei are two EU companies : Ericsson and Nokia with South Korea's Samsung also pushing in.

        Also Huawei is using a lot of US chipsets e.g. they're a huge purchaser of Broadcom if their DSLAMs are anything to go by. So, they're really cutting off a lot of component and licensed tech sales from a number of US companies to a big supplier.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: it is really not benefiting US companies

          Ah, such nationalistic bias is sooooooooo 20th century.

          This is the Brave New World baby. The people in charge in the US don't give 2 shits about US companies or citizens as long as *they* get rich.

          See also: Brexit.

        2. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change

          Re: Interesting in Ireland

          What I find odd though is that the policy in the US seems to be genuinely about security (or punishing China for trade reasons) as it is really not benefiting US companies.

          It's more about holding back 5G deployment in Europe and Asia, to avoid us getting it ahead of the US. Whoever has 5G will benefit from a lot of intellectual property inspired by it. And yes, that'll be mostly dross, but somewhere in it will be the nuggets of gold.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Interesting in Ireland

      Today's noises from BT's CEO suggest that they are having to look at ripping out existing equipment. For 5G they are claiming that it must match the vendor of the existing 4G equipment on the same mast, i.e. where Huawei 4G equipment is used, they have to use Huawei 5G, or replace both units with someone else.

      On Openreach it might be a bit less of a hassle, as they intend to replace their FTTC with FTTP over time anyway. They can keep the old largely FTTC Huawei kit going with the intent to replace it with someone else's FTTP equipment.

      EE is a Huawei free core (or will be - BT said they started ripping it out as soon as they took over), with some degree of Huawei RAN.

      Personally, I think the timing is a bit suspect. As you say Huawei have been very well entrenched for years, and the US weren't bleating on about it as much as they are now. Could it be the fact that their top man is currently losing a trade war with China?

      1. stiine Silver badge

        Re: Interesting in Ireland

        Its 48vdc, it's designed to fit in a standard telco rack (just like every other peice of equipment manufactured in the last 30 years).

  7. mark l 2 Silver badge

    No doubt BT will be passing this £500m cost onto its customers by raising the bills for everyone even though probably half of them haven’t asked for, can't receive or don't want 5G.

    1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

      What rubbish! 'Half of them'? At least most :-)

      I find it very strange that customers are happy to complain when there's a crackle on their landline or their home broadband is slow, yet they seem to put up with mobile voice signals that make two cups and a piece of string sound brilliant or have no mobile data signal whatsoever ... Surely the point of a mobile system is, well, to have a system that works when mobile?

  8. s. pam Silver badge

    Don't worry dear....

    We'll just raise your mobile bill accordingly to cover the loss!

  9. NerryTutkins

    not about security

    I understand the risk of very complicated kit being provided by country that might spy on the UK, but when you mandate that no more than 35% of a network's non core equipment can be from Huawei, that suggests it is nothing to do with security and simply about restricting trade.

    Either the stuff is safe, in which case the government should not be involved in telling UK companies what kit they can and cannot use. Or it's dangerous, in which case none of it should be allowed, because if a third of a telco's equipment is stuffed with bugs and wiretaps, most probably 100% of their traffic would be vulnerable (assuming info passes through multiple devices and it's not as simple as everything installed in parallel).

    This smacks not of a decision by the security services (the UK ones seem to have no problem with Huawei kit, if properly overseen) but by the government pandering to Donald Trump's whims. I suppose the UK had better get used to this kind of thing, because apparently it's taken back control from a place where it had a seat on the board, and now looks like it is pitifully and slavishly having to do whatever Uncle Sam tells it to.

    1. Kevin Johnston

      Re: not about security

      I suspect the powers that be could reasonably say that if you have limited the scale then if there is suddenly a risk identified you have limited the effort to replace it. When you only have a small number of options for supplier then you have to hedge your bets somewhat

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: not about security

        "I suspect the powers that be could reasonably say that if you have limited the scale then if there is suddenly a risk identified you have limited the effort to replace it."

        But if that were the rationale then there should be a cap on any one vendor supplying equipment, or a cap on any one particular product line, not simply Huawei being capped and everyone else being unrestricted. 35% is a rather arbitrary number too.

        In reality, BT has tended towards using multiple suppliers in most cases anyway, e.g. the Openreach network which is Huawei/ECI in its first FTTC-heavy incarnation, with Huawei/Nokia for the second go, largely FTTP. EE (pre-BT) was Huawei heavy for its 4G RAN but brought in Nokia later on, and BT has ripped out the Huawei core elements in line with its own policy.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If software updates to customers in country X were blocked for legal reasons, those devices would steadily become more vulnerable to security exploits. This applies to all networked computing devices. If a network service provider is forced to disable 35% of their network, they will no longer have full coverage or capacity. If 3+ providers each disable 35% of their network, they might just have national coverage between them.

  10. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    Dr Evil Quote!

    " ruling on Huawei will cost us half a billion pounds over next 5 years" ruling on HuaweiHS2 will cost us half axxx billion pounds over next 5?? years"

  11. Jamie Jones Silver badge


    So, does this 35% restriction mean that Huawei is "35% safe", or are they shoe-horning in other trade restrictions that barely seem to have been noticed, and would have caused far more uproar if it wasn't for the security theatre?

    After all, Trumps real issue has been about trade not security - what if the UK and Trump planned this all along? "How to restrict the use of Huawei stuff to a third without anyone calling foul"?

    I was far less cynical when I first heard the announcement earlier this week... Now I'm back to being a grumpy old git.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BT is factoring in a £500m financial cost in light of the UK government's decision

    A conspiracy theorist might suggest that BT is laying the groundwork for an extra £500m handout to do what it was going to do anyway. Truth has nothing to do with it. This despite the fact that BT have of course never behaved in such a way in the past.

  13. elaar

    5G is getting all the headlines, but no one seems to mind that BT uses Huawei equipment for FTTC and FTTP, and that the majority of the new HSCN rollout is being done with Huawei CE's (it's only our private medical data).

    Of course it's multi-vendor and secure, but people don't seem to understand that.

    The Tories also haven't been too concerned about the Chinese owning/having unfluence over our water companies, major bridges and power stations.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The HSCN we're installing was provided by BT Openreach and terminated into a Cisco router - Doesn't go near any Huawei kit.

  14. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    And of course by "Cost BT £500m" they mean

    It will cost BT customers £500m

    Fat cats like the BT C suite don't go without their cream.

    That's for little people.

    1. BebopWeBop

      Re: And of course by "Cost BT £500m" they mean

      The poor cats as opposed to the fat ones?

  15. IGotOut Silver badge

    Huawei is a SECURITY RISK...

    however all that unsecured, unpatched, badly cobbled together IoT shit it's going to allow us* to run is absolutely fine.

    *I exclude myself in that remark..

  16. simpfeld

    Why are they still in Business?

    I can understand why Openreach makes money (no choices in so many areas) but BT. Especially BT Enterprise, easily the worst company I have ever dealt with!

    I'd have had to deal with Oracle and Microsoft.

  17. swaggy

    Most of it Made in China Anyway

    This whole Huawei(Sorry just had to look at my phone for the spelling) debate has been going on since they arrived. I get both sides of it. Surely most equipment of this type gets made over there anyway? Or does it get made in a Secret Secure Bunker by a team of DV cleared watery eyed 60 year olds? I think the former? Is the issue really that its from China, when you look around your home, car almost every item is part made or fully made there. When I was a Lab engineer I Pen Tested so much kit famous Canadian and US names, routers, switches etc. They had more back doors than B&Q!

  18. CFtheNonPartisan

    Politics at their finest

    The joys of being a toady to the US government. The evidence in the wild is that Huawei has some sloppy processes and sometimes misses best practices, but the supposed 'smoking gun' is the founder has ties to the Chinese Communist Party, eg the government. The Americans don't seem to care about open malfeasance or anything else on their own turf as long as those dollars keep flowing, but let a competing system have a go? Not on to them and the long arm of the US will do whatever it takes to keep its vassals in line. If the US is not at the helm it will change the rules in whatever way is required to put the competition out of business. Been there, seen that in other high tech industries.

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