(Bloomberg) -- BT Group Plc has asked the UK government for more time to remove the Huawei Technologies Co. core of its network after supply chain concerns led to an impending ban on the equipment.
“At the end of the day, not interrupting service for customers is the critical requirement here,” BT Chief Technology Officer Howard Watson said in an interview in London with Bloomberg on Tuesday, blaming Covid-19 lockdowns for slowing the transition.
The core is the most sensitive part of a broadband network, akin to a sorting office for mail. Following a ban announced after the the US sanctioned the Shenzhen-based company, operators are obliged to remove Huawei from network cores by Jan. 28, 2023 or face fines of as much as £100,000 ($122,000) per day.
The request underscores the British telecommunications industry’s previous reliance on the Chinese technology giant even in sensitive parts of its biggest systems, and the challenges of implementing the politically fraught order to replace its gear.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson banned Huawei from next-generation 5G wireless networks in 2020 and limited its presence in fixed networks, citing supply-chain concerns after the US imposed sanctions due to spying concerns.
The industry has already received a six-month reprieve for non-core components such as cell transmitters. A BT spokesman in the room said despite the request, the former state phone monopoly is working to the existing deadline.
BT is moving the core of its mobile network from Huawei to Sweden’s Ericsson AB and it has already started migrating customers, according to Watson. Its request was submitted to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, he said.
“We’re considering all the responses received and will publish our decision in due course,” a spokeswoman for DCMS said by email.
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